Nadal backed for dream Roland Garros send-off by Lopez

By Sports Desk September 23, 2023

Rafael Nadal is unlikely to match Novak Djokovic's haul of 24 grand slam titles, but the Spaniard is capable of capping his remarkable career with one last Roland Garros triumph next year. 

That is the opinion of Feliciano Lopez, who hopes to see Nadal overcome his injury woes to enjoy a triumphant send-off in 2024.

Nadal's total of 22 grand slam titles is only bettered by Djokovic among male players, with the Serbian matching Margaret Court's overall record by winning the US Open.

Djokovic has won three of four grand slams in 2023, with injuries leading Nadal to miss the last three majors after he was eliminated from the Australian Open by Mackenzie McDonald in January.

Nadal confirmed earlier this year that 2024 would "probably" be his last year on the tour, and former world number nine Lopez is desperate to see his compatriot go out on a high.

Asked if Nadal could add to his 14 French Open titles – a single-slam record – next year, Lopez told Stats Perform: "With Rafa, you never know, because he has shown on other occasions that he was able to come back stronger, even when he had significant injuries. 

"It will depend a lot on how he feels physically, that will be key. I wouldn't be surprised to see him competing at a good level next year and I would love for him to say goodbye by winning Roland Garros. 

"It would be a dream for me and many people to see him lift that cup once again.

"It is very difficult for me to talk about Rafa, because he has changed the way we see sport in Spain. Before Rafa we had great athletes, but none transcended sport the way he has.

"Rafa's figure in Spanish sport and in the lives of Spanish people… there will be none like him. 

"There have been many joys that he has given us. He has given us examples in many situations outside of sports. There will be a before and after [Nadal] in Spanish sport."

While Nadal now looks highly unlikely to match the evergreen Djokovic for total grand slam titles, Lopez does not believe that will concern the 37-year-old.

"The issue of numbers and who is bigger than who fuels the media a lot," Lopez added. "At this moment in Rafa's life, I don't think he is thinking about that.

"With the numbers, we can see who won the most things, but that is not the question. I want him to return so he can compete again for one last year at the highest level. 

"Hopefully he wins one or two more grand slams, but right now, his goal is to recover and be physically competitive. 

"That is what Rafa needs and wants, because if he is not feeling well enough to compete, it will be very difficult for him to be able to play many tournaments next year." 

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