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Rafael Nadal ‘can’t play perfectly for a long time’ as Boris Becker weighs in on injury

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Rafael Nadal has been told his latest injury will be “a big setback” in his hopes of winning the upcoming French Open. The world No 4 suffered a stress fracture in his rib during Indian Wells which has so far kept him out of Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker has shared his own experience with a similar injury and admitted it takes a “long time” to play “properly” again.

Nadal has been sidelined for four to six weeks as a result of the rib injury he picked up in his Indian Wells semi-final win over Carlos Alcaraz. The 21-time Major champion is expected to be back in time for the two Masters 1000s in Madrid and Rome, and the all-important French Open according to his recovery timeframe.

But retired former world No 1 Becker has warned the Spaniard that he might not be ready for “a long time”, putting his hopes to win a record-extending 14th French Open and 22nd Grand Slam title under threat. “Nadal was actually considered invincible until he injured himself in the semi-final against Alcaraz, who played for over three hours,” the German told Eurosport.

Becker, who won Wimbledon aged 17, shared his own experience with a similar injury as he continued: “Something must be wrong with his rib. I had that once too. It hurts a lot and it takes a long time until you can play properly again because you need it to breathe. And especially now for the clay court season, this is of course a big setback for him.”

Nadal started the season on a 20-0 match-winning streak, picking up titles in Melbourne, Acapulco and the Australian Open before his winning ways came to an end in the Indian Wells final, where he lost to Taylor Fritz. Becker said the 35-year-old had been a clear favourite for the French Open after his undefeated run but questioned whether he was the pick for the title after fracturing his rib.

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“Until the injury, he was considered the favourite for Roland Garros and now he has to get healthy again and play his first matches on clay. And it is not yet clear when he will start again,” the 54-year-old said

“He won’t play Monte Carlo. He also cancelled Barcelona, so Madrid at the earliest. Paris – that’s in three weeks. So good luck that the Spaniard will be healthy.” Nadal’s team recently admitted they didn’t know exactly when the world No 4 would be back in action on the clay after confirming he would not be ready in time for next week’s Barcelona Open.

“Rafa has just been withdrawn from the entry list in Barcelona,” they confirmed on Wednesday. We don’t know yet when he will be at his first tournament on clay this year. Hopefully, soon.”

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