Rafa Nadal is set to make his long-awaited tennis return at the picturesque ATP 1000 Monte Carlo tournament with Novak Djokovic also expected to take part. Nadal hasn't played a match after injuring his hip flexor during his second round exit at the Australian Open.
The 22-time grand slam champion was expected to miss 6-8 weeks after confirming the injury. This saw him withdraw from the Dubai Tennis Championship having failed to come back sooner than hoped from his brutal exit at Melbourne Park.
Nadal was seen training on clay at his academy ahead of Indian Wells, but opted to miss the ATP 1000 event, signalling a clear intention to return for the clay court campaign. And in a huge announcement, the Monte Carlo tournament director has claimed Nadal was the first player to register for the event.
Nadal has won Monte Carlo a record 11 times and the tournament is the first Masters event of the clay court campaign. And the Spaniard has clearly been eyeing a return at one of the most picturesque, and fruitful, tournaments on the ATP calendar.
"Rafa was the first [player] to be registered," tournament director David Massey said. "He really wants to play at the Monte Carlo Masters and is giving himself every chance to take part in the tournament he's so fond of."
Meanwhile, Djokovic is also on the entry list having only played one tournament since his Australian Open triumph. Djokovic's undefeated streak in 2023 came to an end at the hands of Daniil Medvedev at the Dubai Tennis Championship.
However, Djokovic wasn't able to enter the US to take part at Indian Wells. But he will certainly be looking at the Monte Carlo event having defeated Nadal in the final back in 2013.
However, the exciting Nadal and Djokovic announcement has certainly lifted the spirits of the tennis world.
Prince of Monaco 🤘🏼🤘🏼🤘🏼
— Stupid Common Man!!🙈🙉🙊 (@jholhogaya) March 15, 2023
Happy that Rafa will be there with Novak. The young guys are good but the older guys are still tops.
— Nole Fan (@b41063721) March 15, 2023
May it be so.
"Nadal targeting Monte Carlo for injury return." 👇🏻 https://t.co/ObkuUsu0Ou
— Cynthia Tanner (@NorthwoodsLstnr) March 15, 2023
If the hunger is still there, then I am never counting him out! Gooo RAFA
— Animal_Power🐊 #23inParis🐐 (@AnimalPower13) March 15, 2023
Most Titles: 🇪🇸 Nadal
Most Consecutive Titles: 🇪🇸 Nadal
Most Finals: 🇪🇸 Nadal
Most Consecutive Finals: 🇪🇸 Nadal
Most Matches Played: 🇪🇸 Nadal
Most Matches Won: 🇪🇸 Nadal
Most Matches Won in a row: 🇪🇸 Nadal
Utter dominance. pic.twitter.com/3x74iSh4AO
— ً (@nadalprop_) March 15, 2023
Nadal will be looking to pick up some valuable ranking points ahead of Roland Garros this year, which he will see as his best chance to win a record 23rd grand slam title. The 36-year-old Spaniard dropped to his lowest ranking in six years when he fell to World No.9.
Nadal is also set to drop out of the Top 10 for the first time since 2005 after Indian Wells. The 22-time grand slam champ hasn't been outside of the Top 10 rankings since entering after his win at the Barcelona Open when he was 18 years old in 2005.
The Spaniard has not been ranked this low since 2017, when he made the Australian Open final. In 2020, Nadal overtook tennis great Jimmy Connors previous record of 789 weeks in the Top 10. Nadal has been in the Top 10 for 910 consecutive weeks.
Djokovic could lose out on the World No.1 ranking if Carlos Alcaraz wins Indian Wells this week.
Nick Kyrgios set to miss Monte Carlo
Despite Nadal and Djokovic's expected appearance, Nick Kyrgios doesn't appear ready for Monte Carlo. Last year, Kyrgios said he would return to Paris so his girlfriend, Costeen Hatzi, could visit the French capital
However, Kyrgios' trip to Paris came under threat after the Aussie announced his withdrawal from Indian Wells and Miami in a brutal blow for his rankings. And now, it appears Kyrgios won't be playing in Monte Carlo.
While it was never confirmed Kyrgios would play any of the lead-up events to Roland Garros - which includes ATP 1000 events Madrid, Monte Carlo and Rome - it appears he won't be making an appearance in one of the most picturesque events on the calendar. Tennis writer Jose Morgado pointed out on Tuesday that Kyrgios is one of just three top-50 players not on the entry list.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.