(AP) – For months, Rafael Nadal waited for his body to heal. Waited to be able to push himself around a court at full speed, with full energy, of the sort that has carried him to a record 14 titles at the French Open and a total of 22 at all Grand Slam tournaments.
He finally acknowledged Thursday it wasn’t going to happen in time for Roland Garros, where play begins in 10 days — and, while he’s not exactly sure when he will be fully recovered from a lingering hip injury, Nadal said he expects to return to action at some point and probably wrap up his career in 2024.
Speaking at a news conference at his tennis academy in Manacor, Spain, Nadal announced he will miss the clay-court French Open for the first time since making his debut — and, naturally, claiming the trophy — there in 2005. He also spoke about his future in a sport that he and Big Three rivals Roger Federer, who retired last year, and Novak Djokovic have ruled for decades.
“You can´t keep demanding more and more from your body, because there comes a moment when your body raises a white flag,” said Nadal, who sat alone on a stage, wearing jeans and a white polo shirt, as his session with the media was carried live in Spain by the state broadcaster’s 24-hour sports network. “Even though your head wants to keep going, your body says this is as far it goes.”
He did not offer a date for his return to the tennis tour, but said it is likely to take months.
“You never know how things will turn out,” said Nadal, who answered questions in English, Spanish and the local Mallorcan dialect, “but my intention is that next year will be my last year.”
One thing he made clear: He does not want to bow out like this, holding a microphone in his left hand instead of a racket. Nadal has been the ultimate competitor, playing every point as if it might be his last, as if the outcome might depend on each and every swing.
That hard-charging style has been at the heart of his brilliance on the court — and also perhaps contributed to a series of injuries over the years.
“I don’t deserve,” Nadal said, “to end my career like this, in a press conference.”
He is just 1-3 this season and has dropped seven of his past nine matches overall, dating to a fourth-round loss to Frances Tiafoe in the U.S. Open’s fourth round last September.
The Spaniard hasn’t competed anywhere since he lost to Mackie McDonald in the second round of the Australian Open on Jan. 18, when his movement clearly was restricted by a bothersome left hip flexor. That was Nadal’s earliest Grand Slam exit since 2016.
An MRI exam the next day revealed the extent of the injury, and his manager said at the time that Nadal was expected to need up to two months to fully recover. He initially aimed to enter the Monte Carlo Masters in March on his beloved red clay, but he wasn’t able to play there, then subsequently sat out tournament after tournament, decreasing the likelihood that he would be ready for the French Open.
It is one thing for Nadal to lose more frequently, and in earlier rounds, than he usually has over the course of his illustrious career — one in which his 22 major titles are tied with Djokovic for the most by a man (Federer won 20), and includes 92 trophies in all, along with more than 1,000 tour-level match wins.
It is another thing entirely for Nadal to be missing from Roland Garros, where he has appeared 18 times in a row and has won 112 of 115 career matches. He lifted the trophy in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022, when he became the oldest champion in tournament history.
A tweet posted on the French Open account Thursday and addressed to “Rafa” read: “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.”
Nadal’s birthday is June 3, when ordinarily he might have been playing his third-round match in Court Philippe Chatrier weeks from now.
Instead, Nadal will be absent right from the start in Paris this time. And soon, it seems, he could be bidding the tennis tour adieu for good.
“Tournaments stay forever; players play and leave. So Roland Garros will always be Roland Garros, with or without me, without a doubt. The tournament is going to keep being the best event in the world of clay, and there will be a new Roland Garros champion — and it is not going to be me,” Nadal said. “And that is life.”
Source: Associated Press
Vamos Rafa and never give up! ✊
I do believe that the king with health and courage will be on court one day! ✌
Finally There comes that moment of life where tennis would stop for me for life bcz I enjoyed like many other Rafans Around the world. I fall many times only to stand up again by this amazing Sportsman who just never Gave up but This has to end one day. You are the best athlete ever for me. I will be following You for yours n my life. I want to end your Career on clay For one last time. Best of luck for your Career n Future goals. I love you and you will be missed.
Dr Khawar Taimoor
I will be fully supporting alcaraz for the french open and wimbeldon. I do believe that nole right now is not the favorite to win the french open. He himself is struggling at the moment. I have lost interest in watching tennis since the australian open. Have not watched any of the tournaments.
Atp tennis is not ready to move on from rafa right now.
I am more optimistic. If you listen carefully to rafa he said that he is going to take some time off not thinking about tennis. And perhaps he should. Rafa said himself that he is mentally not happy at the moment due various reasons. It would be good for him not to think about tennis and do other things with his family and also talk with a therapist he trusts.
He also said that his first priority is to be fit again. Hopefully this hip injury will heal at some moment. He also said that saying goodbye in 2024 was not for certain it depends on a whole lot of things. He wanted to keep all options on the table. Everything depends on his psychicality. Rafa doesnt want to end his career like this. If rafa becomes healthy again and regains his level and stay injury free then he will prolong his career with one or two years. If not then next year is his last year.
Exactly. And that is a key point. He loves the process of and preparing for competition but constantly battling injuries has taken a huge mental toll. I do hope he takes time off and heals fully before playing.
And all I’m going to say is thanks for everything Rafa. He has given us a lot of joy over 19 years but the clock never stops. I do hope he recovers and gives it one final shot.
Tennis has had no interest for me since January as my hero has been missing. It is understandable why Rafa can’t play at RG. We need to give Rafa the time for this hip injury to heal. As Rafans we will all delight at the next court we see him walk onto. Its hard to think of his impending retirement be it 12 to 18 months away 😪I just pray for his complete healing so that he returns to playing the sport he loves . God Bless you my Champion. Vamos
It hurts me to say this, I have said it before on here however a while ago. Rafa’s “new and improved serve” just took too much of a toll on his body. Rafa’s “old” serve then following that up with the next shot, hopefully a forehand. That play worked for 15 plus years.
I’m not saying it’s old dog, new tricks. More, why mess with a formula that’s served Rafa well for ages. The use of the word serve is kinda ironic.
That new serve was punishing his body to all kinds of extremes. It’s gonna catch up with you. I think Rafa is like Andre Agassi was back in the day. In constant pain. (I’ve read Agassi’s autobiography, called “Open”. It’s a good read, I’d recommend it). Even when walking, sitting down or standing up. Pain twinges.
It’s not Tennis that makes Rafa an idol to millions, it’s the man himself.
My heart breaks for the millions of Rafa fans around the world including mine. None of us ever wanted to hear the word “retirement” come out of his mouth. And Rafa is right. Injury is not what he deserves to be taken out with. I fear the effects of the false you know what included lengthened injury/illness healing times. He may never completely heal because of how it affects everything. I just pray Rafa gets back on court soon and we can all send him off with the love and glory he deserves.
Tennis won’t be the same ever again. Rafa is a light. He is special fire on the court. He IS our champion forever. King of Clay. Olympic Gold Medalist. Raging Bull. GREATEST of All Time.
Vamos, Rafa!!! ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️
A very sad day but his health must come first. For me tennis will not be tennis without Rafa, he is the very reason I started watching and supporting. He is the very best and there will never be another Rafa for me. Heal well and we look forward your return when it is right but in the meantime enjoy your beautiful wife, son and your family. Wishing you the very best always.
I am glad to see Rafa looking relaxed
Sending you all the good vibes, and prayers needed, for your recovery Rafa!
You know your fans miss you LIKE CRAZY xox
Nothing is more important than your health.
I’m sure your family are enjoying the time your getting to spend with them.
The time for you to play tennis will come, after your body is rested and healed.
As long as your happy, Mari is happy and baby Rafa is happy….we are all happy!
Enjoy this hiatus 🙂
I am sad 😭 that’s the only thing I can say right now even though it was bound to happen one day😭😭😭
Knew this day would come but still a part of me hoped you would go on forever.. It’s been 19 years of celebrating your joys, living your sorrows and trying to imbibe your qualities and values.. You’ve given us everything.. Can’t wait to see you return for one final hurrah.. Vamos Rafa forever.. For me you will always be the Greatest! 🥲
I think that many of us knew in our heart of hearts that Rafa wasn’t going to play at RG, having missed all the lead up tournaments. Credit to him for being honest and open about his timeline regarding retirement. Rafa has battled so many injuries throughout his career and he’s fought his way back valiantly, with enormous patience, grit and determination z just like he does on court.
The last 18 months or so has been the hardest for him on many fronts, with injuries, his wife having a pregnancy scare and the death of his father in law. The birth of his son has put a new perspective on life for him, which was inevitable.
Rafa says his “intention” is to retire next year and I will view it as a farewell tour. Although I could watch him play forever, I realise that all good things eventually must come to an end.
I thank him for all the happiness and excitement he’s given me over the years, watching him play and I hope there is more to come, albeit for possibly only one more year.
Perfect sentiment. Totally agree 100%
Rafael Nadal-such a tough statement to make. You have always been a realist, and you will design the next chapter as it unfolds. Roland Garros will endure “That is life”, but you lit it up
bravely, boldly, and brilliantly. You are campeon toujours, Rafa.
It’s not a surprise, but I’m very sad. Rafa’s been such a big part of my life for so long that it’ll be strange not having him around. Wishing him every happiness for the future.
Rafa, you have made a wise choice, protecting your body and your heart both of which are suffering with this choice. You have always given your very best and I am glad not to see you not you on the court.. If and when you are ready , I will be glad for you. You are and always will be the HEART of tennis!!!!!!! Vamos to better times!! Happy birthday early!
Nadal was too reckless with his body in these last years. Especially against Alcaraz, then against Fritz, then against Tiafoe. His body will now be happy and thus, his mind will be happy too.
All the best to you & your family, my super idol!❤️
Sad sad news. In all truth, I would rather see Rafa go out with a bang. Like the previous poster suggested, hopefully the Davis cup win and another Olympic Gold (Djokobitch and Roger never managed one Olympic singles gold). The worse thing ever would be him lingering in the mid 40s in the rankings like Lleyton Hewitt a while ago.
Rafa’s style of play is completely punishing his body to all kinds of extremes. Really don’t want to see him having “Lleton syndrome”, playing more passively just for the money basically. To hell with that.
Get fit, play each point at a time with your usual gusto and controlled aggression, concentrate on the ball, not the opponent. Go out with a bang.
My heart is broken, really tough😭 Rafa gave us so much in his carrer.
We love you Rafa❤️
You will always be my champ who opened my world to tennis with all its glory and heartache.
Sending well wishes.
My tennis love about to end Marg😭
Winning miami wimbeldon cincinnati us open masters in China paris indoor atp masters and gold medaille in paris will be awesome goodbye
Sad to hear the news.Recover well champ.we know the end is near,but it will be fantastic to see you in the court and fighting like a warrior (as it should be).Vamos Rafa
Did he say he is not planning to attempt to play any other tournaments this year? I know he said 6 weeks-4 months to get on practice courts but trying to see if he said he is skipping the rest of the year. Thanks…sad day.
He didn’t really specify other than to say that he hoped to come back healthy in 2024. He did emphasize that he was going to take as much time as needed to let his body heal and that he wasn’t sure how long that would be. So I suppose it’s possible he could play something in 2023, but even Rafa seems unsure if that will happen.
He didn’t really say, but hard courts and indoor courts aren’t his favourites at the best of times, so I’m not sure we’ll see him again this year.
Well Rafa’s announcement that he won’t play at Roland Garros is not a surprise. I’m glad that he is going to take some time off to just let his body recuperate and rest. Plus I like his plan to try and come back healthy for 2024. I think we all knew that his time on tour would likely be coming to an end over the next few years. Next year is maybe sooner than I hoped, but Rafa knows best. I read on other sites that he would also like to compete in the Olympics next year which would be played at Roland Garros and that he may consider playing in the Davis cup final (this September). I guess we will see – I’d love to see him have a great last season, winning all sorts of tournaments along the way.
I am glad to see Rafa looking relaxed and rested. I would like to hear more particulars about his present condition and I hope we don’t hear the word surgery.
Some of the media stated that Rafa could get the benefit of a protected ranking. Does anyone know how that works? Does he need to be off the tour for a specified amount of time? Many thanks for any information.
Thxs for bringing up benefit ranking, I too would like more info on that.
My heart is broken too, it is because of Rafa that I started to watch tennis 🎾. For me there will never be another player of his stature, character and talent. Hope he heals well and perhaps we might see him on the court again!!!
If Rafa applied for the P.R. at the start of his injury absence then it is good for 6 months. If you Google protected ranking ATPTour.com has the complete explanation. The key point to remember is that players using it are not seeded at tournaments. The same applies to wildcards.
Correction: Apologies as I believe I misread the rule. Rafa may apply after he has been off for 6 months. It is a bit complicated and ATPTour.com explains it much better than I could.