Watch: Rafael Nadal trains on beloved clay. Will he play in Monte Carlo?

Rafael Nadal hopes to compete in Monte Carlo

by Jovica Ilic
Watch: Rafael Nadal trains on beloved clay. Will he play in Monte Carlo?
© David Becker / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

The king of clay Rafael Nadal is back on his beloved surface, training at home in Mallorca ahead of Monte Carlo. A 22-time Major winner withdrew from Indian Wells, staying for a couple of more days in the desert and hitting on the American har-tru clay.

Rafa is now back in Europe, having a couple of weeks to shape up his game and chase his 12th title in the Principality. The Spaniard has played three matches in 2024, wasting three match points in the Brisbane quarter-final and skipping the Australian Open, Doha and Indian Wells, not feeling ready to compete following the latest setbacks.

That should change in Monte Carlo, and following Rafa's progress on the slowest surface will be interesting.

Rafael Nadal, The Netflix Slam 2024© David Becker / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Nadal experienced a slight discomfort in his back while preparing for Indian Wells, taking an MRI and not risking anything ahead of his pivotal clay swing, preparing for his first tournament on clay since June 2022!

Despite playing only a few matches this year, Nadal has trained regularly. The Spaniard will compete for his 12th Monte Carlo title in April if ready. Rafa played his first match in Monte Carlo back in 2003 at 16, beating the reigning Roland Garros champion en route to a place in the last 16!

Nadal started his Monte Carlo reign in 2005, winning eight consecutive titles and entering the record books. Rafa suffered two losses to Novak Djokovic before regaining the throne between 2016 and 2018, standing on 11 titles in the Principality.

The Spaniard slowed down a bit since 2019, playing in Monte Carlo only two times and failing to lift the trophy. Nadal is ranked outside the top-600 and will have to start from the bottom, with a risk of facing the players from the top already in the first or the second round.

We have seen Rafa in action only seven times since the start of 2023, with a hip injury tormenting the final stage of his incredible career. Nadal struggled with injuries in 2022, but it did not stop him from conquering the Australian Open and Roland Garros, standing alone on 22 Major titles.

Rafa's ongoing issues increased at Wimbledon following an abdominal injury.

Rafael Nadal, The Netflix Slam 2024© David Becker / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal is training ahead of Monte Carlo.

The Spaniard withdrew ahead of the semi-final, and it remains his last competitive tournament!

Nadal could not recover his game by the end of the season, missing a chance to become world no. 1 at 36 and hoping for a better run in 2023. However, more troubles were waiting just around the corner, as Rafa finished the season already at the Australian Open!

The defending champion defeated Jack Draper in the first round in Melbourne before facing Mackenzie McDonald. Nadal struggled to find the rhythm, trailing before experiencing a severe left hip injury in the closing stages of the second set.

The Spaniard stayed on the court until the end, suffering a late break in the third set and hitting the exit door.

Rafael Nadal, Las Vegas 2024© David Becker / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Nadal revealed a flexor injury, skipping the upcoming events before undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery in June and missing the rest of the season.

Rafa spent a delightful summer with his family and friends before returning to the practice court, eager to make a comeback following the most significant setback of his career. The Spaniard felt progress on the practice court and gym, preparing his long-awaited comeback for Brisbane in the first week of 2024.

Rafa looked good in his first matches after almost a year, ousting Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler in straight sets before facing the first real test. Nadal met Jordan Thompson in the quarter-final and encountered a massive blow, wasting three match points in a 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 loss in three hours and 25 minutes.

More significantly, the veteran's body failed to endure the effort, as he felt the pain around his troubled hip. Nadal took a medical timeout in the final set and fought until the end, finishing on the losing side after getting broken once.

Rafa traveled to Melbourne and underwent an MRI that showed a micro tear in his muscle. The veteran withdrew from the Australian Open, not risking anything in the best-of-five duels. Nadal returned to Mallorca and started another cycle of training sessions.

Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Entertainment - Candice Ward

He felt slight discomfort around his hip and skipped Doha, staying away from the court until Indian Wells. Rafa trained in the desert and played The Netflix Slam against Carlos Alcaraz, losing 3-6, 6-4, 14-12 after two hours.

However, a three-time champion withdrew from Indian Wells after feeling the pain in his back, extending his break from tennis and heading home. Rafa is back on the practice court, working on his game and hoping to enter Monte Carlo in a couple of weeks.

He is hoping for a good run at pre-Roland Garros events in what could be his final clay-court swing in a career.

Rafael Nadal Monte Carlo