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Nadal welcomes unusual role of underdog

Spanish tennis legend Rafael Nadal said on Wednesday he was “excited to be playing in Rome” despite entering the Italian Open unseeded and ranked 305. 

“All the matches are tough for me today, difficult and more unpredictable than what they used to be for me, especially on clay,” the 37-year-old, 10-time Italian Open winner said. 

“I accept that role. I accept that challenge. I’m excited about the way that I can be able to play if I keep working the proper way and my body allows me.”

The 22-time Grand Slam singles champion has recently returned to the circuit after a long absence due to injury.

He will open his campaign against Belgian qualifier Zizou Bergs with the Spanish icon taking nothing for granted but confident of his current match preparation.

“I’m excited to be playing in Rome. It’s a tournament that brings back a lot of unforgettable memories,” said Nadal, who turns 38 on June 3. 

“But it’s day by day. This will be my third week almost in a row on the tour, third tournament almost in a row. 

“That hasn’t happened for a super long time — that’s good news.

“I need to keep going. I need to keep exploring how I will be able to manage to play every day.  

“But I’m happy the way that I feel today.”

Nadal is not the only top player with injury issues. Young stars Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz are missing Rome. 

“When you push your body to the limit, you get injured,” said Nadal.

“When the game is faster and faster and faster, you get injured.

“When you play most of the year on hard courts and the surfaces are tougher for the body, you get injured. That’s the simple answer.”

But he said that such issues were inevitable.

“It is also about the tournaments, about the business, about the sport.”

“At the end the players want to make money. The tournaments want to make money. The cycles come together. 

“We accept that role. Things happen.”

“You cannot complain about that. You accept what’s going on. You keep going. You get injured, you have to recover well. 

“They are young (Alcaraz and Sinner), they are going to have plenty of time to play in Rome and have a lot of success here. No drama.”

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