Patrick Mouratoglou reckons Rafael Nadal might struggle at this year's Roland Garros due to his recent injury problems. The Frenchman highlighted the fact that the World No. 4 has benefited in the past from playing a lot of matches in the lead-up to the event. Since that won't be the case this year, Mouratoglou is of the opinion that it might not be smooth sailing for the Mallorcan at his favorite Major.
After a blockbuster 20-1 start to the 2022 season, the former World No. 1 was hit with an unexpected roadblock in the form of a rib fracture at Indian Wells. The Spaniard will need at least four weeks to recover, according to doctors, and is expected to sit out a good portion of the clay swing.
Speaking in a video he uploaded to his official Instagram handle, Patrick Mouratoglou remarked that Nadal could have used a lot more matches on clay before Roland Garros despite his confident start to the season.
"I think it's going to be tough for Rafael Nadal [at Roland Garros this year]. Thankfully, he has a lot of confidence from the start of the season but we know how much he loves to play a lot of matches before Roland Garros to feel fully in control," Mouratoglou said.
The 51-year-old pointed out that the Mallorcan will have no time to play himself into form when he gets back to action, which has not always been the case in the past.
From the coach's viewpoint, Nadal has always needed the early part of the clay swing to get into his groove in time for Roland Garros, a luxury he cannot afford this season.
"If he doesn't feel the control, it will be difficult for him. If he cannot play more tournaments, it's going to be a big hurdle for him. He has no other option but to play well straight away," Mouratoglou said. "A lot of the time, he doesn't play well at the start of the season at all. He won't have that option that year."
For that reason, Patrick Mouratoglou remarked that he expected the clay season to be "unbelievable" this year. According to the Frenchman, the stakes will be extremely high at Roland Garros as it will give the winner a massive advantage in the GOAT race.
"I think the clay season is going to be unbelievable this season. There is so much on the line because who is going to win Roland Garros is key. If it is Rafa, he has two Grand Slams more than Novak," Mouratoglou said. "If it is Novak, then he has a better chance than Rafa on grass."
"You had Novak Djokovic with a big advantage but Rafael Nadal now has the edge" - Patrick Mouratoglou
During the video, Patrick Mouratoglou also stated that he initially felt Novak Djokovic would be the one to take the lead in the Slam race. For the record, the World No. 1 had the opportunity to leapfrog Rafael Nadal at Flushing Meadows last year but fell at the last hurdle against Daniil Medvedev.
The Spaniard, on the other hand, grabbed his opportunity with both hands at Melbourne Park this year, defeating Medvedev in a blockbuster final to become the first man to win 21 Grand Slams in the history of the sport.
"If you look at the start of the season and you look at the global situation, then Novak Djokovic has the lead for me," Mouratoglou said. "He is winning more Grand Slams than anyone every year, so he is the huge favorite to win more Slams than anyone. [But now] he is lacking a lot of matches."
The Frenchman remarked that the World No. 4 had the edge after Australia as a result. But with his current injury cutting into his preparations for Roland Garros, Mouratoglou feels there is a "balance" between Nadal and Djokovic in the Slam race for now.
"On the other hand, Rafa gained so much confidence becasuse, as Novak wasn't playing, he was winning everything. You had Novak Djokovic with a big advantage and with what happened, Rafa now has the edge," Mouratoglou said.. "But then [Nadal] gets injured, so he's not going to be able to play enough this year and then it comes back to kind of a balance."