Rafael Nadal pulls out of French Open, set to end career in 2024| Inquirer Sports

Rafael Nadal pulls out of French Open, set to end career in 2024

/ 10:16 PM May 18, 2023

Tennis - Rafael Nadal Press Conference - Rafa Nadal Academy, Mallorca, Spain - May 18, 2023 Spain's Rafael Nadal announces that he has withdrawn from the French open during a press conference

May 18, 2023 Spain’s Rafael Nadal announces that he has withdrawn from the French Open during a press conference REUTERS/Miquel Borras

Rafael Nadal on Thursday withdrew from the French Open because his hip injury has failed to heal and said he expects 2024 to be his final year in professional tennis.

It will be the first time since he made his Roland Garros debut in 2005 that the 36-year-old Spanish player will miss the claycourt major that he has won a record 14 times.

“It’s not a decision I’m taking, it’s a decision my body is taking,” Nadal said at a news conference in his native Mallorca.

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Nadal said he was taking a few months off, without training, meaning he will also definitely miss Wimbledon and most likely the US Open, before starting to play again.

And he said next year would bring down the curtain on a career that has so far produced 22 Grand Slam singles titles.

“It’s probably going to be my last year on the professional tour, I can’t say this 100 percent because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.

“The injury I suffered in Australia has not healed as we hoped.

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“Roland Garros became impossible. I will not be there after many years, with everything that (tournament) means to me.”

Nadal said he would not set a date for his return, but indicated the Davis Cup in November could be a potential target.

The Spaniard said it was important to step away from the game in order to come back next year and say goodbye by playing at his favourite events.

“If I keep playing in this moment, I don’t think I can make next year,” said Nadal.

“My idea and motivation is to try to enjoy and try to say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important to me.”

Nadal is hopeful that by taking a complete break, his body can recover.

“I will stop, I won’t train, it’s been months of frustration — there’s a moment that one has to put the brakes on,” he explained.

“It’s time to see if the body can regenerate itself over these months.”

He said he was philosophical about not being able to defend his title at the tournament he has dominated.

“Roland Garros will always be Roland Garros, with or without me, it will keep being the best event,” added Nadal.

“There will be a Roland Garros champion and it won’t be me, and that’s life.”

 Troubled recovery

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 18, 2023 Spain's Rafael Nadal looks dejected after losing his second round match against Mackenzie Mcdonald of the U.S.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 18, 2023 Spain’s Rafael Nadal looks dejected after losing his second round match against Mackenzie Mcdonald of the U.S. REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo

His fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, the 20-year-old who will take over from Novak Djokovic as world number one next week, said Nadal’s announcement was “very painful and sad for everyone”.

“But I hope that 2024 will be a great season for you and that you can say goodbye like the great champion you are!” Alcaraz added.

Former world number one Nadal has not played since the Australian Open in January where he picked up a hip injury in a shock second round loss to Mackenzie McDonald of the United States.

He was expected to recover inside six weeks, comfortably in time to launch an assault on a record-extending 15th title at Roland Garros.

However, with his 37th birthday little over two weeks away and having skipped Masters events in Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome, Nadal is stepping away to try and find fitness.

After a career plagued by knee, wrist and foot injuries in particular, the alarm bells have been ringing ever louder over the last year.

His undefeated start to 2022, which saw him pick up a second Australian Open title, ended with a chest injury at Indian Wells.

He swept to a 14th French Open last June but only after revealing he had required daily pain-killing injections in his foot.

Weeks later, his dream of a third Wimbledon title ended in a semi-final withdrawal due to an abdominal strain.

Nadal’s lengthy absence this year has also seen him drop out of the world’s top 10 for the first time in 18 years.

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Since his 2005 championship-winning debut at the French Open, he has racked up 112 wins and only been defeated three times.

Two of those losses came against Djokovic in 2015 and 2021. The other was to Robin Soderling in 2009.

Djokovic, who shares the men’s record of 22 Slams with Nadal, will start as a favorite in Paris this year alongside Alcaraz.

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