Rafa Nadal at centre of massive update amid concerns around French Open

The 14-time French Open champion hasn't played tennis since January.

Toni Nadal and Rafa Nadal embrace and Nadal reacts during a press conference.
Toni Nadal (pictured left) has claimed Rafa Nadal (pictured right) isn't far off from making a comeback ahead of the French Open. (Getty Images)

Rafa Nadal's uncle Toni has given a promising update on the 22-time grand slam champion's recovery ahead of the nervous wait on whether he will play Roland Garros. Nadal left the tennis world speechless after announcing he would miss the Madrid Open having not recovered from his hip flexor injury that he suffered during the Australian Open.

While Nadal was expected to be back on the court after 6-8 weeks following his Melbourne Park exit, the 36-year-old withdrew from both Monte Carlo and Barcelona in worrying signs. He then made an announcement that his rehabilitation hasn't gone as expected and he wouldn't take part in the Madrid Open.

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This sparked speculation that Nadal wouldn't be fit in time for the French Open, which he has won a record 14 times. Aussie tennis great Todd Woodbridge even speculated that Nadal wouldn't risk his remarkable record on the Paris clay if he didn't think he could win.

However, in promising news, Nadal's long-time coach - Toni - claimed the Spaniard was nearing a return as his training schedule appears to be stepping up. "Rafael is recovering, I think he is not long before he can compete again, but in this tournament (the Madrid Open) he could not be here," Toni told RTVE Madrid.

“This is one of the tournaments that he is the most excited to play but we will have to wait for another year. Obviously he is not going to arrive at Roland-Garros with good preparation, we do not have to fool ourselves.

“Since January 10 he hasn’t played matches and he hasn’t competed for a long time. Before Australia he didn’t play many matches either, but Nadal picks up speed right away and in a grand slam it depends a lot on the draw."

Toni said if Nadal can make it to the second week of Roland Garros then momentum on his most prized surface would make him favourite. Nadal will have one more tournament, the Italian Open in Rome, to play some matches before he hopefully takes to the court in Paris.

Rafael Nadal waves to the Australian Open crowd.
Rafael Nadal (pictured) could be close to a comeback, according to his uncle Toni. (Photo by Bai Xuefei/Xinhua via Getty Images) (Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images)

To accompany Toni's message, Nadal posted a photo on Tuesday of himself back on the court at his academy. It appears the 14-time Roland Garros champion is stepping up his performance in an attempt to become the first male player to reach 23 grand slam titles.

Nadal is also not the only star sitting on 22 grand glams struggling with injury. Novak Djokovic recently withdrew from the Madrid Open as well.

Djokovic has been battling an elbow injury, which has seen him eliminated from both Monte Carlo and Srpska Open in the early rounds. It marks the first time since 2002 that neither Nadal, Djokovic or Roger Federer will play the Madrid Open.

Rafa Nadal's worrying message ahead of French Open

Last week, Nadal left fans in shock after he took to social media and admitted that his recovery hadn't gone to plan. "For the moment I've missed Monte Carlo and Barcelona. And unfortunately I won't be able to be in Madrid either," Nadal said on Instagram. "The injury still hasn't healed."

"In principle it was supposed to be a recovery period of six to eight weeks and now we're around 14," Nadal added. "The reality is that the situation is not what we would have hoped for. All medical indications have been followed, but the healing has not gone as they told us initially and we find ourselves in a difficult situation."

Nadal now has two weeks till the Italian Open, which starts on May 8, marking his last chance for a competitive hit out before Roland Garros.

The top grand slam winners in the Open Era of tennis (since 1968).
The top grand slam winners in the Open Era of tennis (since 1968). (Photo by Mahmut Resul Karaca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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