Having already been forced to withdraw from the French Open and then miss Wimbledon, Raafel Nadal looks likely to return in time for the Rio Olympics next month. Nadal pulled out of the French Open ahead of his third round match in May after suffering a left wrist injury that has continued to keep him on the sidelines during the busiest part of the tennis calendar. Yet the signs are he will be in Rio when the tennis competition gets underway on Aug. 6.
Pictures surfaced this week of Nadal back on the practice court at his home in Mallorca, albeit with tape still on his wrist. But the President of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco, said on Thursday that he is certain that Nadal, who is set to be the country’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony on Aug. 5, will be in Rio.
“His commitment is total and we are sure that he will come to Rio,” he said at a press conference.
Nadal provided a similar message when asked about his status earlier this week. But, while he says he plans to compete, the 30-year-old explained that, after two months off the tour, he will find it tough to add to the gold medal he claimed in Beijing in 2008.
“In Rio, I won't be the favorite in singles after my injury break,” he said. “In doubles and mixed doubles, it is a different story. Anyway, I am very willing to practice and compete, and skipping Olympics is not in my mind.”
It doesn’t help Nadal’s chances that the Olympic tournament will be played on hard courts, a decision that prompted surprise from the Spaniard last year, given that Brazil’s traditional surface is clay. Defending Olympic champion Andy Murray and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic will be the clear favorites in Rio.
But the singles is not Nadal’s only chance for gold. He will also compete in the men’s doubles for Spain alongside Marc Lopez, who won the 2016 French Open with Feliciano Lopez, as well as the mixed doubles with world No. 3 and French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza.
Nadal has not completely ruled out returning to competitive tennis ahead of the Olympics, although he has said that his participation in the Masters 1000 event in Toronto beginning July 25 remains very much in doubt.
“I don't know if I will play in Toronto yet, I'm going day by day, being ready is a priority,” he said.
Given how packed the summer schedule is this year because of the Olympics, Nadal will be desperate to return to the court at full fitness as soon as possible. The Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati begins just two days after the climax in Rio, with the final Grand Slam of the year, the U.S. Open, getting underway two weeks later. And. having just begun to show signs of his best form before the injury, the challenge for Nadal will be pick up right where he left off.