BARCELONA: Rafael Nadal has confirmed he will play this week’s Barcelona Open in what will be the Spaniard’s first event since January and first appearance on clay since 2022 French Open.

“I arrived here a bit like in a last minute decision as I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play,” the 22-time Grand Slam champ told a news conference. “Tomorrow I’m going to be on court.”

Nadal, whose last ATP Tour match was in Bris­bane before he pulled out of the Australian Open, withdrew from last week’s Monte Carlo Masters saying his body was not yet ready for competition.

Nadal has said he expects to retire after the 2024 season but is keen to play at the French Open where he has won a record 14 titles. However, his struggle to recover from hip-flexor surgery has cast doubt on whether he could continue playing.

Addressing media after practising on Monday, Nadal said it was a gift to compete in Barcelona.

“I thought ‘Can I or can’t I?’ It has been a difficult two years. I come from a major hip operation,” he told reporters. “Things happen in the body and I couldn’t follow the schedule I wanted...

“My last year and I want to enjoy every moment. I feel ready to play tomorrow. I don’t think about how I get there. I know what the situation is, that I’m just preparing, but I’m realistic. For me, being here is a joy.”

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2024

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