Rafael Nadal has declared that there are "without a doubt" players in better shape than him ahead of the 2022 French Open. The 13-time champion added that he does not think he is the title favorite "at all", but suggested his situation could improve quickly.
The 35-year-old exited last week's Italian Open in the last 16 after struggling with a chronic foot issue in his three-set defeat to Denis Shapovalov. The World No. 5 also lost to Carlos Alcaraz in three sets in the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open on his return to action earlier this month.
Nadal was forced to miss the Monte-Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open in April due to a rib injury he suffered at the Indian Wells Masters in March. The Spaniard has won three hardcourt titles in 2022, but has played just five claycourt matches since last year's French Open.
Speaking at his pre-tournament press conference, Nadal gave his view on whether he is a different player at Roland Garros than at all other tournaments.
"I think I won 12 Barcelonas and 10 Romes and I think 11 Monte-Carlos, so probably is not the big difference between here and the rest of the places, no?" the Mallorcan said. "No, it's true that here I won maybe a couple more than the rest of the places, no, but I think my level of tennis on clay have been high during a long period of time in my tennis career, without a doubt. That's what the number says."
The Spaniard then discussed his disrupted preparations and his chances at this year's event.
"Unfortunately here, I didn't have the preparation that I would like, and unfortunately that rib fracture stop a little bit the great moment that I was having since the season start," continued the 35-year-old. "But in the sport, things can change quick, and only thing that I can do is try to be ready if that change happens. No, today looks difficult and looks that there are players that are in better shape than me, without a doubt, and is true today, but you never know what can happen in the next couple of days."
The 21-time Grand Slam champion highlighted his victory at the Australian Open in January as an example of him overcoming difficult circumstances to triumph.
"Same happened in Australia, and I put myself in a position to have a chance," Nadal added. "And here is no different. In the case that that can happen, yes, difficult, yes too, but only thing I have to do is believe in my chances, believe in my daily work, and then stay positive and believe in my real chances."
"I don't think I am the favorite at all" - Rafael Nadal on his French Open prospects
Rafael Nadal also revealed that he does not consider himself the favorite to win the 2022 French Open, but insisted that he has always had this outlook ahead of tournaments.
"No, but, I mean, for sure not, because the results says that I am not, but is something that never worried much to me, no?" Nadal said. "Probably when I was a favorite, I never considered myself the favorite, no? Of course one of the candidates. I considered myself during all my tennis career one of the candidates here, because I achieve tournaments before here, and now on Friday, before the tournament start, I don't think I am the favorite at all. But you never know what can happen (smiling)."
The No. 5 seed could face World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals in Paris, before a potential semifinal against sixth seed Carlos Alcaraz. The 35-year-old admitted that he is aware of how strong the top half of the draw is.
"In terms of tennis, of course the top of the draw you see the names, of course is a very tough one," said the Spaniard. "But we are in a Grand Slam, and you never know what can happen, no? You know, remain a lot of things to happen, to probably arrive to the matches that you are thinking, you know."