Casper Ruud has revealed he thinks Rafael Nadal will play at the French Open again before he retires from tennis.
The Norwegian also declared, however, that he feels it is “inevitable that the end is near” for the great Spaniard after his injury struggles this year.
The ongoing 2023 French Open, which began on Sunday, is the first edition of the tournament since 2004 not to feature the 14-time champion.
Nadal has not played since losing to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. The 36-year-old revealed he expects next year to be his final season on tour.
World No 4 Ruud spoke about the 22-time Grand Slam champion’s absence from the Paris major ahead of the tournament.
“It’s a decision that is best for Rafa and the team, as I’m sure they tried all that they could to be ready for Roland Garros but couldn’t do it this year. But I think we will see Rafa again at Roland Garros,” the 24-year-old said on Eurosport‘s Ruud Talk.
“I know him well enough to know that he never gives up – and as he said himself, I think he wants and I think he hopes for a better finish to his career. I mean, it’s inevitable that the end is near.
“But I believe that we will see Rafa at least one more time in Roland Garros feeling ready and fit to top the goal to win the tournament. He never gives up.
“So I just think he needs a little time off now. And I know that he’s been trying to push sort of the clock and the time to be ready for Roland Garros. And this year he couldn’t do it. But now he has a full year.”
Ruud, who lost to Nadal in the 2022 Roland Garros final, also revealed he recently spoke to the Mallorcan, but is unsure when he will return.
“It’s always exciting when Rafa plays, steps on the court, and it’s been like this with him and Roger [Federer] and Novak [Djokovic] for the last 20 years. So, any time they’re absent, it’s different, and it’s always extra exciting and excitement for the tournament whenever they play.
“I just told him that I hope that he will be ready soon and all these things. He didn’t really give me a clear answer to when he would come back. But he said things and you know, he’s trying his best and he hopes to see me again soon.
“I guess it meant that he was trying but didn’t really know when he was coming back. So I guess I won’t see him for a couple of months now either. We all just wish him as speedy a recovery as possible and that it would be great to see him.
“Like he said himself, at the end of the year and getting some matches there and getting it ready for next year. I think that’s the ultimate goal for him.”
Ruud will face Elias Ymer in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday.
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