'Maintaining his body is the biggest thing for Rafael Nadal', says former star

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'Maintaining his body is the biggest thing for Rafael Nadal', says former star

Rafael Nadal had a fabulous first part of the season to say the least. The former world number 1 won the first 20 games played in 2022, managing to win two Grand Slams. Despite persistent foot pain, the Spanish phenomenon was able to clinch the Australian Open and Roland Garros.

The 36-year-old from Manacor has thus hoisted himself to 22 Majors, extending over Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the all-time ranking. The Serbian narrowed the gap by triumphing on Wimbledon grass, but his participation in the US Open is in strong doubt (not being vaccinated against Coronavirus).

Rafa, for his part, will make his debut on the hard court in Cincinnati on Wednesday evening (night in Italy) after missing the Canadian Open. The Iberian admitted that he had not yet fully recovered from his abdominal injury, which had forced him to give up the Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.

Speaking to the Tennis Channel, former WTA number 35 CiCi Bellis analyzed Nadal's prospects in detail.

CiCi Bellis on Rafa Nadal

"Obviously Rafael Nadal is getting into the latter stages of his career so just staying healthy and maintaining his body is the biggest thing for him right now," Bellis said.

"His game's going to be able to show for it like we've seen this year, so I think just making sure he's healthy for the Open is gonna be the biggest thing." Andy Roddick stressed that Rafael Nadal's early arrival in Cincinnati shows that he means business.

"Props to Rafa's management for getting him into that Wednesday night timeslot, giving him as much time as possible to get ready and get his practice reps in. But listen, you know Rafa's serious when he arrives at a tournament almost a week in advance to get used to the conditions in Cincinnati," Roddick said.

"So, I expect to see Rafa physically healthy. Now, the game is a different story, not having played since Wimbledon but I don't see him going out and playing a match in Cincinnati if he's not fully healthy," Roddick said. "I don't think he would have put the US Open at risk if that was the case." Tennis is a sport of legendary rivalries that brings out the best in players while captivating fans around the globe.

There have been several iconic rivalries over the years, and one of the greatest ones in men’s tennis is that of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.