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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The King of Clay can recapture his Roland Garros crown, if three factors fall in his favor, says Toni Nadal.

In a detailed interview with Cadena SER's El Larguero, Toni Nadal, Rafa Nadal's uncle and original coach,  asserts  former world No. 1 Rafa will be a big factor in Paris if three things occur.

Rafa Nadal: Not Fully Fit For Madrid, Will Do Everything to Play Paris

Toni Nadal says Rafa must be fully fit, must accumulate more clay match play in the coming weeks and must receive a favorable French Open draw.

If those three things happen, Toni Nadal says his nephew can claim a record-extending 15th Roland Garros crown.

"Yes [Rafa can win Roland Garros], obviously, we have to get Djokovic, Sinner, Alcaraz... are injured," Toni Nadal told Cadena SER. "Jokes aside, I know it's very difficult because the level of all these is very high and when he went to Barcelona he hadn't played on clay for about 700 days.

"But there's a month to go, if he can physically get his body to respond, he needs to make a few kicks and for the Roland Garros draw to be, not easy because there isn't any, but [manageable] in the first few days, because then everything changes."

Pointing to Rafa Nadal's mind-blowing 137-3 career record in best-of-five-set clay-court matches, Toni Nadal said his nephew will gain more confidence with more match play though he concedes that also comes with the risk of injury.

Looking ahead to the two-time Olympic gold-medal champion's Madrid farewell, Toni Nadal said playing three matches at the Mutua Madrid Open is a good and reasonable goal for Rafa, who opens vs. 16-year-old American wild card Darwin Blanch.

"Let's see if he can do three here... and at Roland Garros, if possible, he makes seven and doesn't lose the final," Toni Nadal told El Larguero. "I hope that the process of readaptation to competition continues and that I don't have any problems.

"I know Rafa's need to play, because arriving at Roland Garros without enough matches is very dangerous, even more so now that he is no longer seeded and you could get an Alcaraz or a Sinner in the first round."

Roland Garros starts on May 26th.

Asked if he believes this is definitely Rafael Nadal's final pro season, Toni Nadal said "I have no idea" before adding "I find it difficult [Rafa will] do another year."

"I don't know [if it's Rafa's last year], because the reality is that in sport everything changes from one day to the next. You have two bad results and you say I'm leaving, you win two and again you think you're in the best conditions," Toni Nadal told El Larguero. "In the end, I don't like to make predictions or think about what's going to happen because it's clear to me that Rafa is 37 years old, a punished body and that he no longer responds as before.

"But he has a similar mentality to the one he always has. If you make me bet, I find it difficult to do another year and play in Spain again, but I have no idea."

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty