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Toni Nadal exclusive: “I believe (in Rafa playing Roland-Garros 2024) because I want to believe”

Toni Nadal considers Alcaraz and Djokovic two top favourites at Roland Garros this year

Toni Nadal, 2023 Toni Nadal, 2022 | © Thibault Camus/AP/SIPA

“Yes!” answered Toni Nadal loudly and clearly when asked whether he believed that his nephew Rafael Nadal will play at the French Open 2024.

Nadal, 14-time champion in Paris, had to withdraw because he wasn’t able to recover from an injury sustained at the Australian Open. It’s likely that Rafa will not play until the end of the year, but Toni is still optimistic about his nephew’s tennis future.

In a chat with Tennis Majors, Toni Nadal also spoke about his current protege Felix Auger-Aliassime, Rafa’s mental strength and the biggest favorites this year at Roland-Garros.

How would you rate Felix’s level at this point after the injury and a couple of losses (to Lajovic in Madrid, to Popyrin in Rome)?

Toni Nadal : Well, there were certain problems, foremost with the knee that didn’t work properly. Afterwards, loss of confidence always accompanies the losses in matches, but we have to look ahead and play.

Physically, is Felix at 100 percent now?

Yes… Well, you saw that he had a problem in Lyon (shoulder, Felix withdrew from the tournament before his quarter-final match following a win over Llamas Ruiz), but I believe that he will be fine for his first match here (against Fabio Fognini).

It is very strange here without your nephew Rafa (Nadal) here, what are your feelings?

It’s disappointing that he can’t be here because this is the only tournament he never missed since the start of his career. Look, it was bad luck that he wasn’t able to recover in time, but OK – it’s a shame, but life goes on.

I know that it’s getting harder to win with every year passing by

Toni Nadal

Do you believe that Rafa will play in Paris next year?

Yes! I believe because I want to believe. I know that it’s getting harder to win with every year passing by, but I always believe that things will work out well.

How do you explain Rafa’s mental fortitude throughout his career?

I think all the great players are very strong mentally – if they weren’t they wouldn’t be able to achieve what they did. Rafael is strong, Djokovic is strong, Federer is strong… With Rafa, he was taught from a very early age to play every point as if it was a final. That helped him become mentally really strong.

Toni Nadal 2021
Imago / Panoramic

Who is the favorite number one to win the title now?

In my opinion, the top two favourites are Djokovic and Alcaraz. At this moment, it seems like Alcaraz is in better shape than Djokovic, but Djokovic is a great champion – if he is feeling well (physically), it’s hard to beat him. Alcaraz has his weapons as well, of course. I believe that there are four or five players that can lift the trophy, but if I had to put my money on someone, it would be Alcaraz or Djokovic.

Who are those players that you see as potential winners after Carlos and Novak?

Medvedev, Rublev, Rune and Casper Ruud – they have a slightly better chance than the rest, but it’s open.

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