Nadal to fire up 'old machine' at Italian Open in bid to build Roland Garros momentum

Spaniard begins title defence on Wednesday ahead of launching his campaign for a 14th French Open crown

Rafael Nadal takes part in a training session at Foro Italico ahead of the Italian Open. Getty
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Rafael Nadal has compared his body to an "old machine" that takes time to get going as the Spaniard aims to build some momentum ahead of Roland Garros when he competes in the Italian Open this week.

Nadal had been sidelined for more than a month after playing through Indian Wells in March with a rib injury, and made his return at the Madrid Open last week, where he lost to fellow Spaniard, and eventual champion, Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals.

The world No 4, a 10-time champion in Rome, gets his Italian Open title defence underway on Wednesday as he aims to build some much-needed momentum ahead of launching his campaign for a 14th French Open crown.

The 35-year-old Australian Open champion has endured a string of injuries during a career spanning more than two decades and he said he needed time to get his body up to speed.

"When you're six weeks without touching a racquet and having the chance to move your body ... my body is like an old machine. To put this machine on again it takes some time," Nadal told reporters.

"It's not the same when you're 19 than when you are almost 36, with all the issues I went through in my career. You need to build again the confidence, your movements, then you start feeling comfortable with your tennis.

"It's more about being confident with my movements, recover the speed, recover the way that I have to play on clay and let's see. I'm confident that I can play well. I need time, but maybe this week can be a positive week, maybe not. Who knows?"

Nadal's record 21 Grand Slam titles

Nadal, a winner of three titles this year including a record 21st major in Melbourne, lost to Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros semi-finals last year, just the third time he was beaten at the claycourt Grand Slam since his debut in 2005.

The Spaniard said he was doing all he can to be fully ready for the tournament, which starts on May 22.

"That's my goal ... I didn't have another chance to approach this claycourt season with the things I went through," he said. "I'm going to give myself a chance and we'll see what's going on."

Updated: May 10, 2022, 6:58 AM