Nadal: “My body is like an old machine. To put this machine on again takes time”

The Spaniard said hitting top form after injury takes much longer but is focused on peaking at Roland-Garros

Rafael Nadal Rome media day Imago / Panoramic

With his 36th birthday just a few weeks away, Rafael Nadal knows his body better than anyone, and knows better than anyone what he’s been through to remain at the top despite numerous injuries over the years.

The Spaniard’s brilliant start to the season, which saw him with a record 21st Grand Slam title in Australia and then reach the final in Indian Wells, was curtailed by a fractured rib and on his return to action last week in Madrid, he was short on preparation and confidence, losing out to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals.

This week’s Rome Masters offers Nadal a chance to build some momentum as he heads towards Roland-Garros, where he has won a record 13 times. But even for someone as good as Nadal, hitting top form is not going to happen overnight.

“When you are six weeks without touching a racquet and without having the chance to move your body…my body is like an old machine,” he told reporters in Rome. “To put this machine on again it already again takes some time.

“(It) is not the same when you have 19 than when you have almost 36, with all the issues that I went through in my tennis career, no? You need to build again the confidence on your body, on your movements, then you going to start feeling again comfortable with your tennis.

“It’s more about being confident with my movements, recover the speed, recover the way that I have to play on clay and let’s see.”

On his favourite surface and this week back at a tournament Nadal has won a record 10 times, Nadal knows he can compete with the best. The winner 12 months ago, he may be searching for confidence but the inner belief remains strong.

“I am confident that I can play well honestly, no?” he said. “I need some time, but maybe this week can be a positive week, maybe not. Who knows?

“The only thing that is sure, I going to keep trying and I going to keep building confidence to try to be ready for next week, for in two weeks. That’s my goal unfortunately this year because I didn’t have another chance to approach this clay court season with all the things that I went through.

“That’s it. I going to give myself a chance and then we’ll see what’s going on.”

Nadal will play either American John Isner or Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina in his first match on Wednesday.

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