- Rafael Nadal has cemented himself as one of the greatest tennis players since he was 14
- Nadal is tied only with Novak Djokovic in the men’s game on 22 grand slam titles
- Should he win the 2023 French Open, it will be the 15th title
Since he made his professional debut as a 14-year-old, Rafael Nadal has cemented himself as one of the greatest tennis players to grace the sport. Going into the Franch Open at Stade Roland Garros, Nadal is tied only with Novak Djokovic in the men’s game on 22 grand slam titles, and yet another title in Paris will see the Spaniard not only add an incredible fifteenth Roland Garros title, but he would also be out on his own in the number of overall grand slam titles. Only Serena Williams (23) currently has more.
But if he is to win again on the French Open clay, he will have to do it the hard way, as Nadal is currently nursing a hip injury that was sustained right back at the Australian Open in his second-round defeat to American Mackenzie McDonald (4-6, 4-6, 5-7). Nadal displayed his grit and determination in defeat, but he was clearly hampered by the injury.
While nobody doubts Nadal’s drive and athleticism, this recent injury is just one of many that has hindered the Spaniard over the past years, with an abdominal injury preventing Nadal from winning three grand slams in a row at Wimbledon last summer. The recent setback has also led many to question how much longer the 2008 Olympic gold medallist can remain at the highest level in the sport.
Even with doubts over his participation at the French Open, Nadal will still go into the tournament as one of the hot favourites in what many people have come to know as the Spaniard’s second home. Nadal will still be featuring extremely high, if not at the top, on many tennis betting resources, and rightly so. Although the betting markets will continue to back the Spaniard if he makes the tournament, there will be other challengers who will look to take inspiration from the few defeats Nadal has experienced at the French Open.
In the last eighteen years, only Roger Federer (2009), Stan Wawrinka (2015), Novak Djokovic (2016 & 2021) have been able to win the Musketeers’ Cup, and in that time, only two players have defeated Nadal. Robin Sӧderling knocked out Nadal in the fourth round in 2009 and Djokovic defeated the Spaniard in 2015 and 2021 in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively. A wrist injury forced Nadal to withdraw from his third-round tie against fellow Spaniard Marcel Granollers in 2016.
And it is only Nadal’s body that will prevent him from becoming the all-time greatest in the sport. After Roger Federer played his final match in the sport last year at the age of 41, fittingly alongside his long-time rival and close friend, Nadal, in a Laver Cup doubles match, it might not be long before we see Nadal follow in his footsteps. Fans around the world of course will be hoping that the Spaniard can prolong his career until 41 and beyond even, but he might have to take a leaf out of the Swiss legend’s book, and start to pick and choose which tournaments he participates in.
Having not played since the Australian Open, and having withdrawn from the Rome Masters, we will perhaps start to see Nadal less at grand slam events. Whether he makes his 19th appearance on the clay courts of Roland Garros remains to be seen, but beyond the French Open, many fans will be hoping the sport is blessed with the Spaniard’s athleticism and ability for years to come.