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Iga Swiatek does not want Rafael Nadal to suffer in French Open comeback bid

ROME – Iga Swiatek said that as a big fan of Rafael Nadal, she would love to see the 14-time champion compete at the French Open, but she also does not want the injury-plagued Spaniard to suffer to make himself available for the tournament.

Nadal has not played since suffering a hip injury at the Australian Open in January, and there are doubts about the 36-year-old’s participation in Paris after the 22-time Grand Slam champion pulled out of the ongoing Italian Open.

“I wish he could play. I really respect the kind of warrior he is. He’s always trying to push and trying to get better and play better and just trying to compete at the highest level,” Swiatek said on Friday.

“I don’t know how much pain he’s living with. I don’t want to see him suffering a lot. I’m biased because I’d love to see him play, but on the other hand I know if he’s going to really suffer, it’s not going to be so fun to see him like that.”

American Coco Gauff, who finished runner-up to Swiatek at Roland Garros last season, had said that Nadal would still be her top pick for the title if he can make it to Paris.

But Swiatek insisted that she hoped the Spanish great would be “healthy and happy” even if he missed the May 28-June 11 Grand Slam.

“That’s the main goal no matter what happens with tennis,” the Polish world No. 1 added.

Swiatek, who hammered 2021 French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 6-0 in Rome on Friday, continues her campaign when she plays Lesia Tsurenko in the third round on Sunday.

In the men’s draw, holder Novak Djokovic began his hunt for a seventh Italian Open title by battling past the unseeded Tomas Martin Etcheverry 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.

The Serbian world No. 1, who pulled out of the Madrid Open in April, wore a compression sleeve on his right arm, sparking concerns about a niggling elbow issue.

He also appeared unwell at one point and asked his team for medical assistance during a changeover. But the 35-year-old still believed that he had a good game.

“I haven’t played too many claycourt matches this season but you can say it was the best one so far,” said Djokovic, who will take on Grigor Dimitrov in the third round.

“Still not at the desired level, still finding the shots and that groove on the court. It’s always a little tricky playing somebody for the first time. But I found my groove towards the end of the first set and the second set was good.” REUTERS, AFP