Rafael Nadal left Rome with a myriad of doubts and fears. The former world number 1 was defeated by Denis Shapovalov in the round of 16, as well as accusing a flare-up of the foot problem that had significantly limited him last season.
The Spanish champion started 2022 in an exceptional way, literally breaking the bank at the Australian Open. After surviving two real battles against Denis Shapovalov and Matteo Berrettini, the 35-year-old from Manacor came back two sets behind Daniil Medvedev in the final.
Triumphing 'Down Under' for the second time in his career, Rafa overtook Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the all-time Grand Slam rankings. Due to a stress fracture in a rib, the Iberian was forced to miss the first rounds on red (Monte Carlo and Barcelona) and did not shine either in Madrid or in Rome.
The Majorcan will arrive in Paris far from the best condition, as he himself admitted at the Foro Italico. On the Tennis Channel's microphones, Paul Annacone expressed his opinion on the matter.
Annacone reflects on Nadal
"The hardest thing in sports is beating Rafael Nadal in 3 out of 5 sets on clay," said Annacone.
"I still think that's the most difficult thing to do." He also expects Nadal to keep getting better as the tournament progresses. "Rafa is such a creature of habit and he loves to have a lot of match wins under his belt," Annacone expressed.
"He started the year off meteorically and of course with the setback of the cracked rib, he hasn't been able to play the schedule that he wants. Rafa is so great, he can play his way into form at Roland Garros," he added.
"He can win a lot of matches at way below sub-par for him and then he'll get better as the tournament goes on. I'm really not worried. I know it's not what he prefers but, look, the guy hasn't won 13 Roland Garros for no reason.
There's no way you can't say that he (Rafael Nadal) is not with the best in every sport that's ever played," the former World No. 12 continued. "I've never seen anyone that has tried harder for every shot that they've hit.
You can just walk by or turn on the TV and watch him practice, and it's the same thing. Every ball is hit like his life depends on it." Rafael Nadal is widely considered as one the greatest players of all-time. In a career spanning 2 decades, Nadal has reached the heights of the sport that remain untouched by the majority of players.