Nadal missing French Open would be disappointing, but 'a new era' would open

By Sports Desk May 17, 2023

Rafael Nadal missing the French Open this year would be a huge disappointment, though Emmanuel Cruze would prefer to look on the bright side.

Cruze is the head of the Villa Primrose Club, the host of the Bordeaux Challenger event, which Nadal declined an invitation to as he continues his recovery from injury.

The 36-year-old has not played since going out in the second round of the Australian Open in January.

Nadal has since dropped to 14th in the ATP rankings, and it is not yet clear if he will be fit to feature at Roland Garros, where he won a record-extending 14th French Open title last year.

However, Cruze told Stats Perform that while it would be sad to see Nadal miss the season's second major, it might signal a changing of the guard in Paris.

"We would all be very disappointed for the tournament, but maybe it will be a new era that will open for all the players, and especially you are talking about Spanish players," said Cruze.

"We need to keep in mind that [Carlos] Alcaraz is really performing extremely well, and is still very young also.

"Is he the future Nadal? We don't know, but definitely if Nadal is not playing at the French Open, it will be much more open for all other players.

"[It will be exciting] for the tournament itself, because if he's there and in good shape, people will say 'Okay, Nadal will win another title, and it's going to be boring'.

"We are not sure that he will be able to play the French Open and then for the next generation it's really something that will be very important for them, to be able to play the French without the pressure of Nadal."

Cruze is unsure if Nadal would be among the favourites even if he mustered a comeback in time for the tournament, which begins on May 29.

"He is over 30 and it's always more and more difficult to come back after a major injury, we have seen with [Roger] Federer, he wants to try to come back and win Wimbledon for the last time and finally was unable to do so because when you are out for six months and you are over 30, I think it's really difficult," he said.

"But [Nadal] is such a character and such a fantastic player [that] you never know. You never know. I'm not a doctor, I'm in the wine business so nothing to do with that, even if wine sometimes helps!"

As for Nadal's legacy in France, Cruze believes there should be a permanent tribute to the 22-time grand slam champion at Roland Garros.

"I think as soon as Nadal retires, he almost deserves a statue, because he is a legend," Cruze added.

"How could you imagine winning 14 times at the French Open, which probably is one of the most difficult [surfaces] because you're playing on clay courts, you spend sometimes three or four hours on the court, which is not the same on grass or on hard courts, so I think for French tennis lovers, he will be a legend for years.

"He's a legend, but normally with a legend, it is because you stopped your career, but he is already a legend, even if he is still playing."

Looking to the future, Cruze sees Nadal's compatriot Alcaraz as a possible heir apparent.

"I've never seen him physically, only on TV and that's it, but he's a very young guy and is performing extremely well," Cruze said of the world number two.

"I don't know about on grass, but for hard courts, he seems to be fine, so if he's fine with a hard court, he would normally be a good player on grass, so yeah he could be the next legend, why not? But so far the real [legend] is still Rafael Nadal, up until he retires."

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