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Rafael Nadal’s ‘biggest enemy’ highlighted as fears raised in Novak Djokovic battle

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Rafael Nadal’s ‘biggest enemy’ has been outlined as he builds towards the defence of his French Open title, and it isn’t Novak Djokovic. The Spaniard won Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open and Roland Garros last year, but the remainder of his campaign was plagued by injury.

And his physical problems have continued into 2023. Nadal failed to defend his title at Melbourne Park as he was beaten in the second round by Mackenzie McDonald, and hasn’t returned to the court since.

Injury has ruled him out of tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami this month, but he is expected to be fit in time for Paris. The ‘King of Clay’ has dominated the event throughout his career, with 14 of his 22 major wins coming in France.

But at 36, fears are growing as to whether the all-time great will still be competing beyond this season. And now Eurosport pundit Mats Wilander believes it’s his body, and not his on-court rivals, that pose the biggest threat to his form.

“I think the last thing that would ever go away from Rafael Nadal’s game is his actual game,” said Wilander, himself a winner of seven Grand Slam titles, and three in Paris. “I think hitting the ball, he’s getting better, he’s getting more creative.

“But in terms of the physical part of moving, I think, yes, he’s going to get slower because he’s not able to train as much all the time and he’s getting older. So there comes a point when there’s a limit to how much you can do with a tennis ball without being able to move around at close to 100%. And I think that’s going to be his biggest enemy.”

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