"Even if Rafael Nadal is a little rusty coming back, he’s still going to be tough" - Taylor Fritz
Taylor Fritz has shared his thoughts on Rafael Nadal's impending comeback to the tour in 2024 and addressed the potential challenge of the Spaniard being unseeded at tournaments.
After sustaining a hip injury at the Australian Open, Nadal spent the year on the sidelines, concluding the season as the World No. 663. As a result of his ranking drop, the Spaniard is expected to be unseeded next season. Nadal recently announced his return date, kicking off his comeback at the Brisbane International in January.
In a recent interview, Fritz disclosed his lack of surprise at Rafael Nadal's comeback. He said that he never envisioned the 22-time Grand Slam champion hanging up his racket without giving it another go.
"I mean, I expected that, it’s Rafa. I don’t think that he was ever going to just retire and not give it another go, so I definitely, after the amount of time he’s had off, I expected him to come back to start the year. So I think that it’s good news for tennis as a whole," he said (via Eurosport).
The American outlined the difficulties posed by Nadal's unseeded status, emphasizing the risk of top seeds encountering him in the early rounds of tournaments.
Fritz also expressed confidence in the 37-year-old's ability to remain a formidable opponent, despite the potential rustiness from his extended layoff.
"I think that maybe it’s going to be tough. Maybe he might be a little bit rusty. I think it’s going to be pretty crazy having him in draws where he’s going to be unseeded. So anybody can play Rafa in the first round, so it’s going to be pretty crazy," he said.
"He’s Rafa, so I think even if he’s going to be maybe a little rusty coming back or it takes some time, he’s still going to be playing really well and he’s still going to be tough for a lot of guys to play early and draws as well just because of him being unseeded," he added.
A brief look at Rafael Nadal and Taylor Fritz's head-to-head record
Taylor Fritz and Rafael Nadal have faced off in four-tour level encounters, with each player claiming two wins apiece. Their first clash took place in the 2020 Acapulco final, where the Spaniard secured a dominant 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Two years after their first meeting, the duo locked horns in the 2022 Indian Wells Masters final. Fritz beat the 22-time Grand Slam champion 6-3, 7-6(5) to clinch his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title.
Subsequently, Fritz nearly triumphed over the 37-year-old in the Wimbledon Championships quarterfinals. Despite coming close, he fell short, as the former World No. 1 displayed his resilience and won 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(10-4).
Fritz emerged victorious in their most recent clash in the group stage of the 2022 ATP Finals, beating Nadal 7-6(3), 6-1.