MIAMI – Roger Federer said he hopes Rafael Nadal will recover in time for the French Open and that it would be a “brutal” blow for tennis if the 14-time Roland Garros champion is absent this year.
Nadal has been dealing with a hip injury he suffered at the Australian Open in January, and fears that the Spaniard may miss the Paris Grand Slam grew after he pulled out of this week’s Italian Open.
Nadal skipped last week’s Madrid Open and also missed tournaments at Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
“It would be brutal, it would be tough for tennis if Rafa isn’t going to be there,” 20-times Grand Slam winner Federer told Sky Sports on Sunday at Formula One’s Miami Grand Prix.
“I still hope so, I saw he pulled out of Rome. so I wish him the best.
“Obviously Novak (Djokovic) hasn’t been playing that much so I hope he’s going to be strong as well and then all the young guys coming through as well,” added Federer, who retired from tennis last year.
Nadal has competed at the French Open every year since winning the first of his men’s joint-record 22 Major titles in Paris in 2005. The clay-court Major begins on May 28.
Chief among the “young guys coming through” is Carlos Alcaraz.
The 20-year-old Spaniard is raring to get to Italy next week to compete at the Rome Masters for the first time in his career and reclaim the world No. 1 spot from Djokovic.
After retaining his title in Madrid on Sunday by beating lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, Alcaraz only has to show up and play in Rome to leapfrog Djokovic.
“I am an ambitious guy and I’m going full for the win in Rome,” Alcaraz said on Sunday.
“What I am achieving is something big. I just have won my 10th title, my fourth Masters 1000, back-to-back titles here in Madrid and very close to reclaiming the No. 1 world spot.
“It’s a special moment and I’m very proud of what I am accomplishing. The work I’m putting in.”
“I know I have an ability to play good in the important moments,” the world No. 2 added.
“I am a player who grows under pressure, in the big stage, and I like to do different things in those moments. To adapt to what my opponents bring to me. I am a finals’ player: I played 13 finals and won 10.”
Alcaraz has joined Nadal as the only back-to-back Madrid champion. He is the youngest to retain an ATP Masters 1000 title since his fellow Spaniard at Monte Carlo and Rome in 2005-06. REUTERS