Rafael Nadal waited months for his body to recover. With 14 French Open titles and 22 Grand Slam titles in total, he was waiting to be able to run as fast and as hard as he could around the court.
Nadal finally admitted on Thursday that he won’t be ready for Roland Garros, which kicks off in 10 days — and although it’s unclear exactly when he will be fully recovered from a lingering hip injury, Nadal is back. He said he expects it will. At some point he will make his move and probably end his career in 2024.
At a press conference at the tennis academy in Manacor, Spain, the 36-year-old Nadal announced he would miss the clay-court French Open for the first time since his debut and, of course, the trophy. He also spoke about his future in a sport where he and Big Three rivals Roger Federer (who retired last year) and Novak Djokovic have reigned for decades.
“You can’t keep demanding more and more from your body, because there comes a point when your body raises the white flag,” said Nadal, who sat alone on stage in jeans and a white polo shirt during the session. The media was broadcast live by his 24-hour sports network on Spanish National Broadcasting. “Even if your mind wants to go further, your body tells you that this is the limit.”
He declined to say when he would return to the tennis tour, but said it would likely take several months.
“You never know what will happen, but next year is going to be my last,” said Nadal, speaking in English, Spanish and his local Mallorcan language.
One thing he made clear was that he didn’t want to bow like this, with a microphone in his left hand instead of a racket. Nadal is the ultimate contender, he has played every point like it was the last one, every swing like the outcome depends.
That hard-working style is at the heart of his on-court brilliance, and likely contributes to a string of injuries over the years.
“I don’t deserve to end my career like this,” Nadal said at a news conference.
He’s just 1-3 this season and has lost seven of his last nine, starting with a fourth-round loss to Francis Tiafoe in the fourth round of the U.S. Open last September.
The Spaniard hasn’t played anywhere since losing to Mackey McDonald in the second round at the Australian Open on January 18. At this time, his movement was clearly restricted by a troublesome left hip flexor. It was Nadal’s first Grand Slam exit since 2016.
An MRI the next day revealed the extent of the injury, and Nadal’s manager said at the time that he could take up to two months to fully heal. He initially wanted to play on his favorite red clay for the Monte Carlo Masters in March, but was unable to play there and has since missed tournament after tournament, potentially making it in time for the French Open. sex has decreased.
It’s one thing that Nadal has lost more often and early rounds than usual in his illustrious career — Nadal’s 22 major titles tie him with Djokovic for the most men’s titles (Federer 20 wins). , including a total of 92 trophies and his over 1,000 tour-level match wins.
It’s a whole other thing that Nadal can’t play at Roland Garros. He has made 18 straight appearances and has a career record of 112-3. He lifted the trophy in his 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022 Became the oldest champion in tournament history.
French Open tournament director Amelie Mauresmo said it was “very disappointing” for Nadal, the crowd at the tournament and all tennis fans.
“My thoughts go out to him because I can only imagine how much pain and grief he must have felt to have to make such a difficult decision. Heartbreaking,” Singles said. said Mauresmo, the former world No. 1 player who won two major titles at “We wish him a speedy recovery and return to the tennis courts and hope to see him at Roland Garros next year.”
Nadal’s birthday is June 3, and the third round would normally have been played a few weeks later at Court Philippe Chatrier.
Instead, he will be absent from the start in Paris this time. And soon he may be saying goodbye to the tennis tour for good.
“Tournaments live forever. I will continue and there will be a new Roland Garros champion, but it will not be me,” Nadal said. “And that’s life.”
By Joseph Wilson, Howard Fendrich