Rafael Nadal, one of the all-time greats of tennis, has announced that he will miss the upcoming French Open and that he expects 2024 will be his final year as a professional athlete.
Nadal suffered a hip injury during this year’s Australian Open which saw him bow out of the competition early. At a press conference in Spain in the early hours of Friday morning, AEST, Nadal said that he has not been able to recover from the injury in time for the upcoming French Open and will not compete at Roland Garros.
The 14-time French Open winner added that he hopes to return to the court next year for what could be his last professional round.
“I’ll look to be 100% ready for next year, which I believe will be the last year of my professional career,” Nadal told reporters in Mallorca.
“The evolution of the injury I sustained in Australia has not gone as I would have liked. I have lost goals along the way, and Roland Garros becomes impossible.”
Fans had been speculating that Nadal would announce his withdrawal from the competition and that he would hang up his racket for good when the conference was called on Thursday.
The 36-year-old Spaniard said that he needs to put a pause on his playing in order to fully recover from the injury if he is to make a return to the game one last time.
“If I keep playing at this moment, I don’t think I can be there next year,” he said.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to come back in the highest level and compete for Grand Slams.
“What I will try to do is to give myself the opportunity to go back to what could be my final year competing at the highest level.”
Nadal has won a record 22 Grand Glam titles and 92 ATP singles titles, many of which were on clay, earning him the nickname ‘the King of Clay’. He is widely considered to be the best player of the style.
Retirement rumours have however been circulating around Nadal, ever since he left the Australian Open earlier this year. His 2021 season was also cut short after he developed a rare foot condition.
Organisers of the French Open, one of the big four grand slam tennis tournaments played at the Roland-Garros Stadium in Paris each year, have expressed their sadness at Nadal’s absence this year online.
We can't imagine how hard this decision was. We'll definitely miss you at this year's Roland-Garros. Take care of yourself to come back stronger on courts.
Hoping to see you next year in Paris 🧡 pic.twitter.com/lTN3GExBFo
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 18, 2023
Nadal is one of the ‘Big Three’, the other two being Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Together they are thought of as the greatest of their generation. However, it appears their time in the sun is nearly up.
Federer announced his retirement from the game in September last year, and Djokovic has been hinting towards the same, following some injuries.
In a similar vein, tennis GOAT Serena Williams also announced her retirement last year. Perhaps there’s something in the air around tennis legends right now.
In March, Toni Nadal, Rafael’s uncle and former coach, told reporters in March that he would expect such an announcement from his nephew soon.
Nadal added, in the press conference, that he is aiming to return to the sport for the Olympics, which are set to be held in Paris next year.
“It’s an extra motivation to focus in my return,” he said.
“I went through some very difficult years, and I think it’s time to take better care of my body, I have suffered a lot with injuries … What will happen next year, I don’t know”.