Rafael Nadal always knew that his “old machine” will take time to fire up after his quarterfinal loss to Carlos Alcaraz at the Madrid Masters. The Spaniard spent more than a month out with a rib injury, but is now preparing for his assault at the French Open that gets underway on May 22.
The former world number one overcame a severe foot injury that ended his 2021 season prematurely to make a blistering start to the 2022 campaign. Nadal won the Melbourne Summer Set in early January before claiming the Australian Open title. He then won in Acapulco before losing to Taylor Fritz in the final of the Indian Wells Masters.
Nadal was 22-0 before his loss in Indian Wells, after which he revealed that he was carrying a rib injury. The injury saw the 21-time men’s singles Grand Slam champion miss the start of the clay court season before making a return at the Madrid Masters last week.
The soon-to-be 36-year-old was beaten by young Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals on his way to the title. Nadal is now in Rome for the Italian Open and is hoping he can have a positive week as he continues his preparation to fight for his 22nd Grand Slam title at Roland Garros later this month.
“When you’re six weeks without touching a racquet and having the chance to move your body … my body is like an old machine. To put this machine on again it takes some time,” Nadal told reporters before the Italian Open, as quoted on Reuters.
“It’s not the same when you’re 19 than when you are almost 36, with all the issues I went through in my career. You need to build again the confidence, your movements, then you start feeling 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. I’m confident that I can play well. I need time, but maybe this week can be a positive week, maybe not. Who knows?” he added.
Nadal is hoping he can be prepared enough by the time the French Open comes around. He admits that his preparation has not been ideal owing to the injury, but remains hopeful that a positive week in Rome could see him get back to his best at Roland Garros.
“That’s my goal … I didn’t have another chance to approach this claycourt season with the things I went through,” he said. “I’m going to give myself a chance and we’ll see what’s going on.”