Nadal: “If, in my heart of hearts, I didn’t have any hope of creating something beautiful, I wouldn’t be here”

At a press conference on Saturday before the start of the main draw at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal, who is due to face Alexander Zverev on Monday, said he was making progress in training

Rafael Nadal Rafael Nadal practising at the French Open 2024 (Imago/Panoramic)

In Rome, in the arena that is the centre court of the Foro Italico, Rafael Nadal was disappointed, because he was unable to show the fight he had hoped for, noting that he had trained well but not shown it in a match after losing 6-1, 6-3 to Hubert Hurkacz in the second round. It was enough to raise questions as to whether he would participate in the French Open.

Two weeks later, the King of Clay, the Prince of Paris – with 14 titles to his name – is well and truly present for the clay court showpiece. He has regained confidence in his ability to run, slide and fight without fear on the surface.

“I am having a good week of practices,” said the Spaniard, who has been hitting the ball at high intensity with Daniil Medvedev – “we played just over a set and he beat me,” said the Russian – and Stan Wawrinka. “I probably will say is the first week since I come back playing tennis that I am able to run the proper way without having a lot of limitations. That’s encourage me.”

He added: “I was practising better in Rome, too, [but] then I was not able to show [it] on court, no. But in terms of — obviously not showing. I mean, it’s a different tournament, a different feeling completely. But I progressed, you know. In the practices, without a doubt I improved. Especially in terms of movements. So I don’t feel the limitations that I felt in Rome in terms of running, both sides, so that’s a lot for me. I mean, not only about thinking in terms of having amazing results here but thinking about give myself a little bit more room to think about what can happen in the future, yeah.”

And he doesn’t rule out the possibility of returning to Roland-Garros in the future.

“it’s a big, big chance that going to be my last Roland-Garros, but if I have to tell you it’s 100% my last Roland-Garros, sorry, but I will not, because I cannot predict what’s going on. I hope you understand.
Myself, I have been going through a long process of recovery with a very difficult injury, almost two
years of suffering, a recovering process that seems like I feel better now. I am not a guy that reacts because I lost there or I lost in the other place, no? Reacts about my personal feelings, and my personal feelings are better now than one month and a half ago, without a doubt.

“So in some way I don’t want to close 100% the door, because a very simple thing. First thing, I am
enjoying playing tennis. Second thing, I am travelling with the family. They are enjoying. I am enjoying
sharing all this process with them. And third thing, I was not able to explore yet the proper way how I will be able to play being in again more or less healthy conditions, playing without limitation.

“So give me some time. Maybe in one month and a half I say, okay, it’s enough, I can’t keep going, but
today in some way I cannot guarantee that that’s going to be the last one. But of course it’s a big chance.”

His first obstacle is Alexander Zverev, world No 4 and Rome champion, who awaits him in the first round of the French Open – but Nadal says he goes in thinking he has a chance.

“In some way this place is magical for me, no? So happened a lot of times things that was difficult to imagine. So if, in the bottom of my heart, I don’t have any hope to have success here and to create a beautiful thing this year, I will not be here in front of you guys. So I still having the motivation and a small, but at least is a small hope to play well.”

He explained that just because he feels better physically, that does not mean he is back to his best.

“Of course that’s not means that I’m gonna be out there on Monday and I’m gonna play incredible, no? I think going to be something very difficult to make that happen because I didn’t have under my shoulders enough moments to play that highest level…it’s a super-tough first round. Maybe I go there and I repeat the disaster of Rome. It’s a possibility, of course. I don’t want to hide that.”

Even if he loses in straight sets, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the duel, nobody would be disappointed to see Nadal on Philippe-Chatrier one more time – the entirety of the crowd would be on its feet, cheering until the end with hands full of applause for the man who is considered to be the greatest fighter in the history of tennis.

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