Is Rafael Nadal a contender for the French Open? The veridct is in

Is Rafael Nadal a contender for the French Open? The veridct is in

Rafael Nadal’s stunning win against Alex de Minuar at the Madrid Open on Saturday inspired pundits around the tennis world to reassess the Spaniard’s ambitions for what is left of the clay court season, with thoughts instantly turning to the French Open in Paris.

Nadal went into the Madrid tournament suggesting he may not be fit to play at Roland Garros next month, where he is a 14-time champion and the ultimate ‘King of Clay’.

Yet his mood seemed to change as he beat one of the form players of 2024, with his ambitions for what might be possible despite his ongoing injury issues.

Here, we look at Nadal’s targets over the next few weeks and what he could achieve.


It was easy to get carried away with the remarkable scenes in Madrid as Nadal beat De Minaur.

With the room on the main show court at La Caja Mágica, the noise that was generated sent shock waves through a sporting world that forgotten what it feels like to watch a Nadal match exploding in such dramatic fashion.

The icons of tennis have a gravitas that has been built up over two decades and while new heroes like Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner are great to watch, we don’t have emotional attachments to them in the way we do with Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Yet that enduring bond with the greatest champions of all-time can also blur our judgement on what we can realistically expect from them in the final phase of their careers.

We are basing our opinion on what Nadal could achieve based on his history on clay courts and his dominance on the surface over the last two decades, but this Nadal is not the same beat.
This Nadal has huge question marks hanging over him and he doesn’t even have all the answers right now.

READ MORE: Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal star in list of 5 best win percentages at a Masters 1000 event


If we were to take Nadal’s words at face value prior to his match with De Minaur, a 15th victory at the French Open was an impossible dream and he insisted little had changed despite his stunning win against the Australian.

“I think last few days my body feelings improved a little bit,” said a more upbeat Nadal. ” It’s about going on court there with the feeling that I can fight and I can be competitive and, you know, let’s go on court and dream about what can happen.

“If I go on a tournament like Roland Garros with the hope, with the real hope that my body going to deal with the demands that I am going to need to be competitive.

“It’s about going on court with real hope. Then anything can happen, but before the tournament, I had the hope that I can play and I can play for a few days in a row. So the next couple of weeks are important to see if that’s a real possibility or not.”

It was a more upbeat Nadal talking after the De Minaur match, but he also pointed out that the challenge of playing best-of-five-set matches at a Grand Slam will be a different ball game from a physical perspective.

The word Nadal fans around the world will be encouraged to hear him muttering is ‘hope’ as he appears to have more of that now than he did a few weeks ago.


The oddsmakers may be running scared of Nadal as he appears to be making more of his comeback than anyone expected, but the chances of him winning the French Open for a 15th and final time remain slim.

All the hard work Nadal has put in to give himself a chance to compete on the ATP Tour again was rewarded after his thrilling performance against De Minaur, but he needs to report that again and again to have a chance to win at Roland Garros.

Can he physically go all the way with 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz for four hours and then back that up with another long and draining battle against Jannik Sinner and possibly his old rival Novak Djokovic?

Nadal will be unseeded at the French Open and that means he will get a highly-ranked opponent in the opening two or three rounds and only then can a judgement be passed on whether he is a realistic contender at Roland Garros.

While you should never write off the all-time greats, this fairytale story is unlikely to end with Nadal winning the French Open once again.

Related Articles