Rafael Nadal has returned to a tennis court for the first time since picking up an unfortunate rib injury at Indian Wells last month. The Spaniard, who is among the favourites to win this year’s French Open, was forced to cope with a stress fracture in the US and was initially expected to be out of action for around six weeks after losing in the final at the hands of Taylor Fritz.
However, it seems as though Nadal’s recovery process is going well ahead of the second Grand Slam of the new year at Roland Garros. He took to Instagram on Monday to share a photo of himself in training at the Rafa Nadal Academy in his native Manacor as he steps up his preparations for what is left of the European clay-court swing.
“Today after 4 weeks without stepping on a tennis court, first soft training,” wrote Nadal in his caption. “What an illusion to step on the earth again!”
It remains to be seen whether Nadal will be able to return to his pre-injury standards in order to seal yet another French Open triumph when he returns to the Grand Slam circuit at the end of next month. He currently holds the record for the most titles at Roland Garros with 13 and will be looking to pip the likes of Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev to this year’s honours when the action finally gets underway in Paris.
However, Nadal will be desperately hoping to avoid any further stumbling blocks on his journey to full fitness before taking to the court in the French capital later this year. He insisted after his recent defeat to Fritz at Indian Wells that he was hugely disappointed with the unfortunate timing of his latest setback and revealed that he struggled to breathe normally during the closing stages of the match.
“Honestly, I am sad because of the way I was not able to compete,” Nadal told reporters. “It is tough to have these feelings every day but especially in the final is very, very ugly.
“But, yeah, in sport it is not about talking of the past. We need to talk about today, and today is a difficult day for me. I had problems breathing, I don’t know if it is something on the rib, I don’t know yet.
“When I’m breathing, when I’m moving, it’s like a needle all the time inside here. I get dizzy a little bit because it’s painful. It’s a kind of pain that limits me a lot.
“It is not only about pain, I don’t feel very well because it affects my breathing. [I am] more than sad [about the breathing] than for the loss, something that I accepted immediately, and even before the match ended, it’s more about that I am suffering a little bit, honestly.”