Rafael Nadal returned to training on Monday following a four-week rib injury layoff, with just over a month to go before the French Open.

“Today’s first gentle workout after four weeks without stepping on a tennis court. What excitement to step onto clay again!” the World No 4 wrote on Twitter alongside two photos showing him training indoors on clay.

Nadal picked up the injury in his loss to American Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final on March 22, announcing at the time he expected to be out for between four and six weeks.

That defeat ended his perfect 20-0 run to start 2022 which had included winning the Australian Open title.

The 35-year-old missed last week’s Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open, currently underway, but could potentially return for the Madrid Masters on May 1-8.

His main focus will be on being fit for the French Open which begins on May 22. Nadal has won the title at Roland Garros 13 times.

Nadal beat Daniil Medvedev in an epic final in Melbourne after Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia over his Covid vaccination status.

That victory gave him a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title, moving him out of a tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer.

During the Spaniard’s absence, teenage compatriot Carlos Alcaraz emerged with a Miami Open triumph while Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas claimed a second consecutive Monte Carlo title.