Tennis legend Chris Evert has explained why Rafael Nadal's enforced time off due to injury is actually "a bonus" ahead of the French Open.
The 2022 Australian Open champion has been ruled out for four to six weeks with a cracked rib suffered during his defeat in the final against Taylor Fritz in the California desert at Indian Wells.
Nadal was visibly struggling to breathe during the match, saying afterwards that he was finding it “difficult”, having had to lie down at times to receive treatment.
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The 35-year-old had been struggling with a pectoral injury during the tournament, but on his return to Spain he told reporters that he was “all good". However, after consultation with doctor Angel Ruiz-Cotorro, it was revealed that he has a stress fracture in the third-left costal arch - an injury that occurred during the match.
The time frame for his recovery will leave him with limited preparation time for the 2022 French Open as he looks to snatch back his long-standing crown from rival Novak Djokovic, but Evert believes there are still positives for him having a prolonged period of rest ahead of the tournament.
"I think with his record this year, he has lost one match so far," Evert told Eurosport in a wide-ranging interview ahead of the French Open.
"He had that streak of so many tournaments and so many wins, and he has had a wonderful start to 2022. I think this injury is a hiccup.
"I think any time Rafa can rest and take time off, I think is a bonus, is a positive for him. What comes into effect is the years and years and years before. It is not only what happened three or four weeks ago.
"He has a myriad, or an abundance, of experience and confidence from years and years and years of pulling himself out of tough matches and being world No. 1. I don't think the mental part will affect him.
"He has put his body through the mill the last 20 years and I think the more important thing right now is making sure that he is healthy, especially when you are playing three out of five sets.
"Especially when you are playing Grand Slams, seven matches to win, and especially with how well the other men are playing. I think it is crucial that he is 100% healthy if he hopes to win the French Open."
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Nadal's injury sustained at Indian Wells was "absolutely unexpected" and a "real shame", according to another Eurosport expert, Alex Corretja.
"This injury for Rafa was absolutely unexpected," Corretja told Eurosport Spain.
"Honestly, he was in perfect form, with confidence, winning matches. It really was a perfect start for the season, but sometimes it can happen that when you haven't competed for a while you start to win many sets, many matches and that sometimes causes a new injury, as has been the case this time.
"The real shame is that the best part of the season was coming for him: the clay. Now he is going to have to recover, go back to training, and hopefully, he can play a tournament prior to Roland Garros because really the expectations, and the hopes that he will win again in Paris, are very high.
"Hopefully he will arrive in shape because I sincerely believe that it is very important that Nadal is on the circuit."
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