Nadal not 'closing door' on extending career

Rafael Nadal practises at the 2024 French Open
Nadal has won 14 of his 22 Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros [Getty Images]

Rafael Nadal still cannot say "100%" if he is playing the French Open for a final time - but it remains a "big chance" it will be.

Nadal, a record 14-time men's champion at Roland Garros, previously said he expected to retire later in 2024.

The former world number one missed last year's clay-court Grand Slam through injury and has barely played over the past 18 months.

But Nadal, who turns 38 on 3 June, has been encouraged by his form and fitness in recent weeks.

"In some way I don't want to close 100% the door," he revealed on Saturday.

"Physically I feel better, I am improving in different ways and I have less limitations than three or four weeks ago.

"I have given myself the chance to play Roland Garros - maybe one more time, maybe not.

"I am feeling competitive in the practices. I am able to play almost anyone. That has given me some hope."

Now ranked 276th in the world, Nadal has only played 11 matches since January 2023 because of hip and abdominal injuries.

The 22-time major champion's last outing came in a defeat by Polish world number eight Hubert Hurkacz in the Italian Open second round.

After that match, Nadal said he was unsure if he would be fit enough to play at Roland Garros.

He admitted he decided a "couple of days" afterwards that he would return to the scene of his greatest triumphs and the Spaniard has the "right motivation" to play.

Nadal has landed a difficult draw, though. He will play against German fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who won the title in Rome, on Monday or Tuesday.

"When you are not seeded anything can happen," added Nadal, who has won 112 of his 115 matches at Roland Garros.

"That's part of the business when you are not seeded. You just accept it.

"On paper it is not the best draw, I will play against one of the toughest opponents possible, so what can I do?

"I have to try to be ready for it."

Nadal's remarks in his pre-tournament news conference were bullish and represented a more positive outlook than he presented earlier in the clay-court swing.

That attitude was mirrored by his uncle Toni Nadal, who coached him from the age of three and helped his nephew win 16 of his Grand Slam titles, in an interview with BBC Sport this week.

Speaking before the draw against Zverev was made, Toni Nadal would not rule out Rafael winning a 15th title on the Paris clay.

“It will be very difficult because in the last two years he has not played many matches but I think his game remains very difficult for opposing players," he said.

"When you're not seeded it is a big problem. But if Rafael is able to arrive in the second week he will be one of the favourites to win Roland Garros again."