Nadal ponders French Open participation after Rome loss

Fifteen days before he is scheduled to play in what will likely be his final French Open, Rafael Nadal is so unsatisfied with his level of tennis that he's still debating whether or not to go to Roland Garros.

Nadal's surgically repaired hip and his 37-year-old legs didn't provide him with the necessary means to be competitive enough on Saturday as world No.9 Hubert Hurkacz overwhelmed the 22-time grand slam champion on his beloved clay for a 6-1 6-3 victory in the third round of the Italian Open.

It was Nadal's first match against a top-10 player in one-and-a-half years and he couldn't have been more disappointed.

"Tough day for me in all ways because I felt more ready than what I showed," Nadal said. "I am little bit more unpredictable today, not playing enough for the last two years. Too many doubts."

In terms of games won — just four — it was the most lopsided loss for Nadal on clay in 21 years, since also winning only four games against Gaston Gaudio in Hamburg in 2003 when he was only 16.

Now Nadal will need to dig deeper on the practice court if wants to be competitive one last time at the French Open, where he is the record 14-time champion. Roland Garros starts on May 26.

Nadal said he had two options for Paris.

"One is to say, 'OK, I am not ready, I am not playing enough well," Nadal said. "Another is accept how I am today and work the proper way to try to be in a different way in two weeks.

"The decision, as you can imagine, is not clear in my mind today. But if I have to say what's my feeling and if my mind is closer one way or the other way, I going to say be in Roland Garros and try my best," Nadal added.

"Physically, I have some issues, but not probably yet enough to say not playing in the most important event of my tennis career."

Nadal is still regaining his fitness after missing nearly all of 2023 with a hip injury that required surgery,

Defending champ Daniil Medvedev on his way to victory at the Foro Italico. (AP PHOTO)

"Let's see what's going on, how I feel myself mentally tomorrow, after tomorrow, and in one week. If I feel ready, I going to try to be there and fight for the things that I have been fighting the last 15 years, if now seems impossible."

Against the big-serving Hurkacz, appeared slow at times and lacked the ruthless edge to finish off points.

Twice in the first set, Nadal missed drop shot attempts to hand Hurkacz breaks of his serve.

Meanwhile, world No.1 Novak Djokovic reported he was "fine" after accidentally getting hit on the head by a water bottle while signing autographs after his opening win on Friday.

But Djokovic wasn't taking any further chances when he showed up at the Foro Italico for practice on Saturday, putting on a biking helmet when he met with fans again.

Australia's Alex de Minaur made it to the third round with a 6-3 6-2 win over Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena, while defending champion Daniil Medvedev beat British hope Jack Draper 7-5 6-4.

Hurkacz will next face 25th seed Tomas Etcheverry, who eliminated Thiago Seyboth Wild 6-3 7-5.