Rafael Nadal practices at Roland Garros for French Open amid fitness doubts

Staff Writers
AP
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 20: Rafael Nadal of Spain during a training session at Roland Garros on May 20, 2024 in Paris, France.(Photo by Christian Liewig - Corbis/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 20: Rafael Nadal of Spain during a training session at Roland Garros on May 20, 2024 in Paris, France.(Photo by Christian Liewig - Corbis/Getty Images) Credit: Christian Liewig - Corbis/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal has returned to Roland Garros to practice and try to figure out whether to compete at the French Open, a tournament he made his own.

The 37-year-old Spaniard showed up late on Monday afternoon (Tuesday AEST) with his coach, Carlos Moya, and a couple of sparring partners at Court Philippe Chatrier, which was open to the public.

About 6000 fans were there at the French Open’s main stadium, cheering loudly as Nadal stepped onto the court. After the practice, which lasted about an hour and a half, Nadal signed several autographs before disappearing through a doorway and into a tunnel that leads toward the locker rooms.

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The training session gave Nadal a chance to reacquaint himself with the red clay at Roland Garros -- he hasn’t played a match there in two years -- and test his fitness.

The tournament begins on Sunday and it remains uncertain if Nadal, who has won the event 14 times, will enter.

He is still regaining his match readiness after missing nearly all of 2023 with a hip injury that required surgery, and much of this season because of problems with a hip muscle and an abdominal muscle.

His recent loss in his second match at the Italian Open -- 6-1 6-3 against Hubert Hurkacz -- left Nadal unsure about whether he would consider himself ready for the French Open.

“Let’s see what’s going on, how I feel myself mentally tomorrow, after tomorrow, and in one week,” Nadal said in Rome.

“If I feel ready, I (am) going to try to be there and fight for the things that I have been fighting (for for) the last 15 years, (even) if now (that) seems impossible.”

In one of the final warm-up events, the Geneva Open, for the French Open Rinky Hijikata made an early exit. The only Australian in the event was beaten by Sebastian Ofner 4-6 6-4 6-3, with the Austrian to next face No.2 seed Casper Ruud.

Hungary’s Fabian Marozsan was the first seed to exit, beaten by Alexander Shevchenko 6-4 7-6 (7-4). Yannick Hanfmann was leading Andy Murray 7-5 4-1 when rain intervened. The winner faces top seed Novak Djokovic in the next round.

The winner is expected to play Djokovic on Wednesday (Thursday AEST), the 37th birthday for the record 24-time grand slam singles champion. Murray, who has a 2-5 career record against Djokovic in slam finals, turned 37 last week.

The Swiss decider is scheduled for Saturday, one day before main draw play starts at Roland Garros where Djokovic is the defending champion.

The only Australian at the Lyon Open in France, Aleksandar Vukic, will meet No.2 seed Alexander Bublik in the second round on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST).

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