madness to see Nadal… in training

madness to see Nadal… in training
madness to see Nadal… in training

6,000 spectators were in the stands of the Philippe-Chatrier court at Roland-Garros this Monday to watch a simple training session by Rafael Nadal, who should play his last Parisian Grand Slam in the coming days.

Thousands of pairs of amazed eyes for a working session like no other: Rafael Nadal, fourteen-time winner of Roland-Garros but whose form and participation remain uncertain less than a week before the 2024 edition, s He was trained at Central Paris on Monday afternoon.

It’s not Sunday, it’s not final day, far from it, since the Parisian fortnight only opens in six days, but already, there is electricity in the air under the roof of Roland-Garros Central. However, we only saw the first day of qualifying on the courts of Porte d’Auteuil, but, above all, we waited for the first steps in training of “Rafa”, the king – even battered – in his kingdom.

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Five minutes before the announced time, the “Rafa, Rafa, Rafa” descend from the lower level of the three-quarters full stadium, when the announcer introduces “a Spaniard who is quite well known here in Paris”.

6000 spectators

It’s a simple training session, but for what has every chance of being his last Roland-Garros – if he makes the right decision to play it – the Spanish champion with 22 Grand Slam titles is doing his entry onto the Philippe-Chatrier court in front of some 6,000 spectators.

Nadal had not set foot on Parisian clay since his last coronation in 2022, when he went through the tournament in incredible conditions, including an anesthetized left foot to contain the pain caused by the chronic illness from which he has suffered since he was 18. (Müller-Weiss syndrome).

In his first exchange, each of his strikes is accompanied by a clamor from the public. In a corner of the court, Amélie Mauresmo, the tournament director, watches and chats with Carlos Moya, the Mallorcan coach.

On the starting line?

A little later, in the presidential gallery, ball boys crowd around so as not to miss the event. The session shared with his compatriot Marc Lopez and a French sparring partner, Vivien Cabos, lasted 1 hour 45 minutes, a little longer than expected, and ended shortly before 7 p.m. We saw Nadal hitting with more intensity after an hour, repeating his ranges at the net, smashes included, practicing serving without the restraint he still had in Madrid at the end of last month.

In a now sparse stadium, the most loyal spectators have meanwhile gotten closer to the Spanish legend, even in the currently deserted boxes.

“Rafa” is in Paris, it’s a first step, but it doesn’t quite answer the only valid question: will he be on the starting line for the 2024 edition for good? If so, in what form?

He who is attempting a final return to form at almost 38 years old – he will celebrate it on June 3 – has repeated in recent weeks that he will only line up at Roland-Garros, on the land beloved of his fourteen triumphs, unless he feels sufficiently ready. He remains in an encouraging round of 16 in Madrid, followed by a lackluster elimination in the second round in Rome.

“The decision is not clear in my mind today,” he still procrastinated a week ago after his defeat in the Italian capital, while suggesting that he was leaning towards participating in the tournament which he describes in an interview after interview of “the most important of (his) career”. Having fallen below 250th place in the world, he will in any case not be protected there by the status of top seed in the draw.

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