Rafa Nadal at centre of crushing new development before French Open

The clay court maestro's outlook on his return is looking dire.

Rafa Nadal with the Barcelona Open title and Nadal during a press conference.
Rafa Nadal (pictured) is reportedly unlikely to take part in the Barcelona Open, creating further fears over his fitness leading into Roland Garros. (Getty Images)

Rafa Nadal is reportedly unlikely to play the Barcelona Open, raising further concerns over the Spaniard's fitness and his future in the sport leading into Roland Garros. Nadal hasn't played tennis since injuring himself in his devastating second round loss at the Australian Open.

The 22-time grand slam champion was hopeful to make an appearance at Indian Wells, but delayed his return as he prepared for the clay-court season. However, Nadal stunned fans when he withdrew from the Monte Carlo Masters this week, even though he was touted to make his return at one of his most lucrative events.

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However, in a concerning update for the 35-year-old who has struggled with persistent injuries since Wimbledon last year, Nadal is unlikely to take part in Barcelona, according to Spanish outlet Cadena SER.

Nadal admitted before the Monte Carlo Masters earlier in the month that he was taking his recovery day-by-day. “I'm in a phase of increasing work. If I knew when I was going to return, I would say so, but I don't know. I can't confirm that I will play in Monte Carlo, things are seen day-by-day. I prefer to say things when I really know them," he said.

Nadal has won the Barcelona Open a record 12 times. The Spaniard is the reigning champion and will lose points for not defending his title if he is unable to start his clay-court campaign in Catalonia.

The clay court maestro has won the Monte Carlo Masters a record 11 times, and the French Open a staggering 14 times. The publication reported Nadal could also be a doubt for the Madrid Open as well.

Nadal has clearly been working towards a return to Roland Garros, having released social media clips of himself training at his academy on clay. However, fans were left questioning when Nadal would be fit to make what could be his final push for another grand slam.

In better news, compatriot Carlos Alcaraz is expected to be fit for Barcelona. Alcaraz returned to tennis following his withdrawal from the Australian Open and reclaimed the World No.1 ranking along with titles at Indian Wells and the Argentina Open.

The 19-year-old phenom may have lost the No.1 ranking again to Djokovic, but enters the clay-court season in unbelievable form. However, Alcaraz pulled up hurt after his match against Jannik Sinner in Miami and withdrew from Monte Carlo.

But seeking his first Roland Garros title, Alcaraz is expected to start his clay-court campaign in Barcelona. Alcaraz will head into the French Open as one of the strong favourites alongside Djokovic.

Carlos Alcaraz and Rafa Nadal embrace at the net in Monte Carlo.
Carlos Alcaraz (pictured left) and Rafa Nadal (pictured right) both missed the Monte Carlo Masters due to injury. (Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images) (Europa Press Sports via Getty Images)

Rafa Nadal's ranking plummets after absence

Last week, Djokovic said Nadal's absence from one of his most lucrative tournaments was a shame, but offered another star to make their mark in a new era of tennis. “Of course, in one way it’s a loss for the tournament and for tennis in general, because he’s by far the most successful clay-court tennis player of all time," he said.

"We know how many times he has won Monaco and all the other events we played. But on the other hand, it’s an opportunity, I think, for all of us others, when he’s not there, to try to go far and grab a title.”

Nadal has dropped to World No.15 and in March it marked the first time in 18 years Nadal had dropped out of the Top 10. 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.

In 2020, Nadal set the men's record when he overtook tennis great Jimmy Connors previous record of 789 weeks in the Top 10. Nadal has been in the Top 10 for 912 consecutive weeks. He sits only being Martina Navratilova who was at the top of the women's game for an incredible 1,000 weeks.

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