Rafael Nadal returns to the scene of one of his greatest Grand Slam triumphs when the Australian Open begins on Monday
AFP News

Rafael Nadal could miss this year's French Open after admitting that his irking hip injury has still not "healed."

Nadal is facing a race against time to recover fully for the French Open, which is scheduled to begin on May 28. The defending champion has revealed he "can't work out what I need to do to compete" after his predicted eight-week time period for his psoas problem has now stretched to 14 weeks, while the player has not seen any improvement.

Ahead of the French Open 2023, there are two major clay-court tournaments left to be played – Madrid Open and Italian Open, with the former beginning next week.

'Been difficult few months'

Nadal sustained the injury earlier this year in January at the Australian Open. The 22-time Grand Slam champion, who has since missed six ATP tournaments, has now withdrawn from the upcoming Madrid Open and will most likely miss the subsequent tournament in Rome as well.

"It has been a difficult few weeks and months. As you know, I suffered a major injury in Australia, in the psoas (muscle). Initially, it had to be a six to eight-week recovery period and we are now on 14. The reality is that the situation is not what we would have expected.

"All medical indications have been followed but somehow the evolution has not been what they initially told us and we find ourselves in a difficult situation," Nadal said in a video published on social media.

Nadal holds the record for winning the most number of men's singles titles at the Madrid Open – 5, with his last victory coming back in 2017.

Continuing in the video, Nadal said that as the weeks passed by, he had the "illusion of being able to play in the tournaments that are the most important in my career" which are all clay-court competitions such as Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros.

"For the moment I have missed Monte Carlo and Barcelona. I will not be able to be in Madrid, unfortunately. The injury still hasn't healed and I can't work out what I need to do to compete. I was training but now a few days ago we decided to change course a bit, do another treatment and see if things improve to try to get to what comes next," added Nadal, who won the French Open final in straight sets last year.

When will Nadal return to action?

At the 2022 French Open, Nadal dropped just three sets before the final, where he thrashed Norway's Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 to clinch a record-extending 14th trophy at Roland Garros. That victory remains Nadal's last triumph at a Grand Slam. After that he suffered a fourth-round loss at the US Open before withdrawing from Wimbledon ahead of his semi-final clash with Nick Kyrgios due to an injury.

While Nadal was expected to enter the 2023 season fully fit, his campaign has been marred by his recurring hip issue.

"I can't give deadlines because if I knew I would tell you but I don't know. This is how things are now. I have no choice but to try to have the right attitude throughout this time, try to give myself the opportunity to compete in one of the tournaments that remain of the clay season and I have no choice but to work and be with the right mentality," said Nadal.

With Nadal still in agony, he received a special message from American actor Ben Stiller.

"Sending Rafael Nadal good vibes and steady strong recovery," Stiller wrote on Twitter.

Nadal and Stiller share a close friendship. The legendary tennis star had invited Stiller to participate in a one-night exhibition event in New York back in 2013.

"I got to know [Nadal] a little bit about 7 or 8 years ago. He invited me a few years back to see an exhibition match at Madison Square Garden which was really exciting," Stiller said during a guesting at "The Tonight Show."