Rafael Nadal out of French Open, hints that 2024 will be his final year on tour

Rafael Nadal playing at the 2022 US Open
Spain’s Rafael Nadal practices against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini on Center Court ahead of the 2022 Wimbledon Championship at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, in London, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

In the history of tennis, there is nobody who has been better at the French Open than Rafael Nadal. Sadly, we won’t get to see him compete there this year, and we may only get to see it one more time before the legend calls it quits on a tremendous career. 

Speaking on Thursday afternoon, Nadal announced that he would be withdrawing from the 2023 French Open because of the core muscle injury that has been plaguing him for months. 

“I was even working as much as possible every single day for the last four months,” Nadal said during his press conference. “It has been very difficult months because we were not able to find the solution to the problem that I had in Australia. Today I’m still in a position that I am not able to feel myself ready to compete at the standards that I need to be [at] to play a Roland Garros. I am not the guy that is going to be at Roland Garros and just try to be there and put myself in a position that I don’t like to be [in].”

If there’s anybody that knows what it takes to compete at Roland Garros, the site of the French Open, it’s Nadal. 

The lefty has won the French Open 14 times and has an absurd 112-3 record across 18 career appearances at Roland Garros. The 112 wins and his 97.4% win rate are both records, likely never to be topped, as is his 14-0 record in the French Open finals. 

Nadal won last year’s French Open by defeating Casper Ruud in straight sets. 

Nadal first felt this core muscle injury in his second-round loss to Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open. He originally hoped it would only six to eight weeks to heal, but a short video was posted online last week of Nadal doubling over in discomfort during a practice session.

That helped play into the Spaniard’s decision to withdraw from Roland Garros and give his body a break.

“Since after the pandemic, my body was not able to hold the practices and to hold the daily work in a good way,” he explained. There were “too many problems, too many times having to stop for physical issues, and too many days of going here practicing but with too much pain. So after I said that I need to stop. I need to stop for a while.”

Rafael Nadal loses at the 2023 Australian Open
Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a forehand return to Mackenzie McDonald of the U.S., during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan.18, 2023. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Unfortunately for tennis fans, Nadal also suggested that this prolonged stop may just be so that he can be healthy for 2024 and play one final season before retiring from the sport.

“I can’t say 100% that [it is] going to be like this because you never know what can happen. But my idea and my motivation is to try to enjoy and try to say goodbye to]all the tournaments that have been important for me in my tennis career during [next] year and just try to enjoy that that, being competitive and enjoying being on court,” Nadal said. “I really believe that if I keep going now, I will not be able to make that happen. I don’t know if I stop if I will be able to make that happen, but I think the chances are much higher if I stop.”

With fellow tennis legend Rodger Federer retiring last year, the prospect of men’s tennis losing yet another legendary player is certainly a somber reality. While the men’s tour has plenty of talented players remaining, there may never be another play to equal what Federer or Nadal has been to the sport. 

Last year’s French Open win was Nadal’s 22nd Grand Slam singles title, a record at the time that has since been equaled by Novak Djokovic. 

Overall, Nadal has won 92 titles on the ATP tour and currently has a record of 1068 wins and 220 losses. He has spent 209 weeks at number one in the world, which is all the more impressive when you consider that he played at the same time as Federer, who has spent the most weeks at number one of any player in men’s tennis history. 

“I am not the guy who likes to predict a lot the future,” so Nadal. “I’m just following my personal feelings and just following what I really believe is the right thing to do for my body and for my personal happiness now.” 

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