The eternal wait for Rafa Nadal: he starts in Rome, where Djokovic also plays, to prepare for the Roland Garros assault

The eternal wait for Rafa Nadal: he starts in Rome, where Djokovic also plays, to prepare for the Roland Garros assault

The Spaniard, absent since February 29, will debut in the first round against Pablo Carreño, a recent semifinalist at the US Open.

The eternal wait for Rafa Nadal: he starts in Rome, where Djokovic also plays, to prepare for the Roland Garros assault

Spotted! Rafa Nadal is already here doing his first training session ». The social networks of the Masters 1000 in Rome enthusiastically announced the arrival of the Majorcan to the Foro Italico . There were more reasons than usual for that fervor. He is number two in the world and has won nine editions of the tournament, but it is above all his return to the slopes after more than six months of absence.

Nadal has not competed since winning the Acapulco final against Taylor Fritz on February 29. The manacorense, like everyone else, was in chapel to play in Indian Wells when the organization decided to cancel the tournament due to the first cases of coronavirus in the Coachella Valley. Behind followed the entire ATP circuit and, although the tournaments returned in August, the Spaniard resigned from Cincinnati and the US Open.

Several reasons weighed in his decision. On the one hand, the health service, both because of the evolution of the pandemic in the United States and the added dangers of the trip. But on the other, the need to adjust the shot. The ATP had to compress the calendar in this final stretch of the course and there were only two weeks of margin between the US Open and Roland Garros. The Spaniard understood that his best options to win were to give up New York.

It will be the second longest hiatus in Nadal's career. The Mallorcan was out for more than seven months between 2012 and 2013 due to a problem with the patellar tendon in his left knee (then he missed two Grand Slam tournaments and the London Olympics). Although in this case it was not an injury, Nadal has raised the requirement of preparation to reach the Masters 1000 in Rome with strength.

Rally with Wawrinka

He has been fortunate to have the facilities of his academy to maintain his physical tone during these months. But one thing is the form and another the rhythm of competition, rusty after such a long break. To make up for it, he has received players such as Grigor Dimitrov , Pablo Andújar and Jaume Munar in Manacor in recent weeks. The day before traveling to Rome he was training with the Bulgarian, who only three years ago, before the injuries, was number three in the world.

The Spaniard landed in the Italian capital on Wednesday and on Thursday he was already rallying at the Foro Italico with Stan Wawrinka . “Spotted!” On Friday he had a double session with Kevin Anderson and Casper Ruud , one of the most promising young people in his academy (number 37 in the world); and on Saturday, the day of the draw, another double with Karen Khachanov and Gael Monfils . A demanding set-up.

And it will be necessary because a difficult draw awaits him at the Masters 1000 in Rome. Nadal goes straight to the second round, where he will face Pablo Carreño , who is coming from the semifinals of the US Open. The Spaniard has won his five duels (the most recent was this year at the Australian Open), but the Spaniard arrives in good shape.

Djokovic, only in the final

It has not been a friendly draw with the Spanish: Garbiñe Muguruza makes his debut against Sloane Stephens and could cross in the second round with Coco Gauff , while Albert Ramos opens against Kei Nishikori . The representation of the Navy is completed by Alejandro Davidovich , who comes from signing a great US Open, Aliona Bolsava and Pedro Martínez , all three from the previous one.

If Nadal went to the last 16, he could be measured with Milos Raonic ; in quarters, with Diego Schwartzman ; in the semifinals, with Stefanos Tsitsipas ; and only in the final, with Novak Djokovic , who reappears in Rome after the US Open incident. Like last year, the Serbian has prepared the clay court tour in Marbella and will now try to relaunch a campaign in which he has equaled Nadal's 35 Masters 1000 . Rome could see the first tiebreaker.

Yesterday, Nadal was still training at the Foro Italico with Jannik Sinner , the best ATP debutant of 2019. The Spaniard has won the last two editions (in 2018, against Zverev, and in 2019, against Djokovic) and has already been nine. If he gets the tenth, he will already add double digits in four tournaments: Rome, Godó (11), Montecarlo (11) and Roland Garros (12).

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