Rafael Nadal to remain in singles draw for Rio Olympics

Cynthia Lum/Icon Sportswire
Cynthia Lum/Icon Sportswire

The long-awaited buildup to Rafael Nadal’s Olympic status is over and it is good news for both he and his fans: he will indeed play singles, so long as his practices keep going smoothly.

As Spain’s flagbearer (an honor he missed in 2012 when his knee injury forced him out of London), Nadal had confirmed a while back he would absolutely be participating in some form in Rio, though many expected him to take it easy by skipping singles and just play the doubles events with Marc Lopez and Garbine Muguruza.

With the withdrawals of both Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, Nadal will be the third seed in singles, his first event since withdrawing midway through the French Open due to a left wrist ailment that required rest and a soft cast. Despite his lack of match experience, Nadal has been practicing hard in Mallorca (with Andy Murray at times) and in Rio (with David Ferrer) and will have a solid shot at a medal, especially with the weak field that has essentially been sliced in half due to various factors.

The decision was made on Tuesday night following his second practice of the day. Afterwards, media crowded around the freshly-built Center Court in Rio to hear the decision made between Nadal, his coach/uncle Toni, Spanish team captain Conchita Martinez and Nadal’s longtime doctor.

If he does play all three events, both of Nadal’s doubles teams are among the favorites. He and Lopez will be seeded sixth in men’s doubles, while he and Muguruza would be seeded second. Nadal and Lopez are two-time champions of Indian Wells, the tournament that traditionally brings the most singles players into doubles. Muguruza and Lopez both won their first Grand Slams at this year’s French Open, Muguruza in singles and Lopez in doubles with Feliciano Lopez (no relation).

Nadal, who turned 30 in June, won the singles gold medal in 2008 and has won two titles this year, including the Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo.

The singles draw takes place on Thursday, he will carry the flag in Friday’s opening ceremony and singles play starts on Saturday.

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