Recently retired Feliciano Lopez is backing good mate Rafael Nadal to make an injury return to tennis – date unspecified – and get back in the championship mix sooner rather than later.

Lopez, tournament director of the Madrid Masters, quit the competitive game last month when he lost in the Mallorca quarter-finals on grass to Yannick Hanfmann.

The 41-year-old now has his day job to fall back on and explained his confidence in the 37-year-old Nadal to CLAY magazine.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion has not played since January due to a stubborn abdominal injury but is vowing to make a return to the Tour.

“Rafa is fine and his recovery is going well. Knowing him, it’s hard for me to see him on court without feeling competitive,” Lopez said.

“It’s hard to know what level he’ll be at in 2024, but he has the rest of the year to recover. 

“If Rafa returns to play tennis it will be to do it competitively,” with the Spaniard adding that months away from the courts spending time with family can be helpfulĀ to Nadal.

Lopez, a member of the Roger Federer-Nadal tennis generation, has a soft spot for his former ATP foes.

“What Federer and Nadal have done for tennis seems hard to beat. It is something extraterrestrial.

“It’s very possible that it is the most lasting, extraordinary rivalry and that it has been able to impact the most people in the world. 

“According to the (statistical) numbers..  that’s a different debate, but the love that people have for Federer and Nadal is second to none