Main goal is to play the Olympics, says Nadal after French Open exit

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal went down to Alexander Zverev in the first round. Photo: USA TODAY Sports/Susan Mullane via Reuters

Paris: Rafael Nadal likened his struggles with injury in the last 18 months to being in a jungle as the 14-time French Open champion hoped to return to Roland Garros for the Olympic Games after making a premature exit from the Grand Slam on Monday.

Never far from physical issues in his glittering career, the 37-year-old missed almost all of 2023 with a hip problem and his comeback earlier this year was stalled by a muscle tear, before niggles affected his preparation for the claycourt major.

Nadal crashed to a 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 defeat by fourth seed Alexander Zverev in Paris and although there were positives, he said he could not predict how his battered body would respond to the demands of the Games in July and August.

"My body has been a jungle for two years. You don't know what to expect. I wake up one day and I find a snake biting me. Another day a tiger," Nadal told a packed press conference following his earliest exit from Roland Garros.

"I've been fighting with all the things that I went through. But the dynamic is positive the last few weeks. I felt ready. I think tomorrow I'll be ready to play again if I have to. But I will not have to.

"So that's the thing. Now, I need to prepare myself, I need to clear my ideas and see what's the new calendar to try to be ready for Olympics. I can't say anything today, but my main goal now is to play the Olympics."

Nadal will be eyeing his third gold medal after triumphing in singles in the 2008 Beijing Games and doubles eight years later in Rio.

He had expressed doubts about his fitness ahead of what is likely his final French Open.

"Today in the match, I felt I was able to move myself much better than in the previous tournaments. But I had a very tough opponent in front of me. He played well," Nadal added.

"I had my chances... I mean, I wasn't that far. That's my feeling. That's probably my truth... I played at a good level in all ways, comparing to the way I was playing the weeks before. So, happy for that.

"Of course disappointed to lose, but in terms of body feelings, I'm happy that I finished healthy and I had a tough battle out there. And I was ready for a little bit more."

Nadal said it would be unwise to prepare for the grasscourt season that follows with a potentially difficult transition back to clay for the Olympics.

"It looks difficult, honestly. For me now I can't confirm what's going on, but it looks difficult to make a transition to grass, having the Olympics again on clay," Nadal said.

"I need to talk with the team. I need to analyse so many facts. But I don't think it's going to be smart after all the things that happened to my body to make a big transition to a completely different surface and then come back to clay.

"Today I feel that's not a good idea, but I can't confirm. But my feelings is even if I'm booked in Wimbledon because I had to, I don't think it's a positive idea right now."

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