Nadal pulls out of French Open, says 2024 season will likely be his last

Sports Desk, May 18 (EFE).- Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal said Thursday he will not compete in the upcoming French Open, a Grand Slam event he has won a record 14 times, and that the 2024 season will likely be his last.

The 36-year-old Nadal, who first won Roland Garros as a teenager in 2005, will be absent from his sport’s biggest clay-court tournament for the first time in 19 years.

“I haven’t recovered as I would’ve liked from the injury I suffered (at the Australian Open in January). The goals I set along the way weren’t met, and Roland Garros became impossible. Considering what that tournament means to me, you can imagine how difficult this is. I don’t plan to be playing in the coming months,” the “King of Clay” said at his tennis academy on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

Nadal, winner of 22 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, a record haul matched only by Serbian arch-rival Novak Djokovic, injured the iliopsoas muscle (the main flexor of the hip joint) in his left leg at the year’s first Grand Slam event in Melbourne, where he lost in the second round to American Mackenzie McDonald.

Although he has been training in hopes of defending his title in Paris, he has not played a tournament match since mid-January.

It was unsurprising that Nadal did not compete at hard-court tournaments in March in Indian Wells, California, and Miami.

But the severity of his injury problem became clear to tennis fans when he was forced to withdraw from a series of French Open tune-up events – Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome – that, like Roland Garros, he has dominated for nearly two decades.

In remarks to the media on Thursday, Nadal outlined plans that include an extensive period of rest with the goal of making a full recovery and being able to compete next season.

“It could be a goal to try to come back at the end of the year and (possibly) play the Davis Cup (Finals),” Nadal said, referring to an international team event that will take place in late November in Malaga, Spain.

The next objective is to be healthy at the start of 2024, which “I think will be my last year.”

“If I continue playing at this time, I don’t think I’d be able to be around next year. (So) I won’t go to Roland Garros. I won’t play these next few months, and my goal is for next year to be my last. To be able to play the tournaments I want to play, to bid farewell to those that have marked (my career),” he said.

One event he may play next season is the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, whose tennis competitions will be held at Roland Garros.

Nadal has an almost unfathomable 112-3 record at the French Open, where a three-meter-tall (9.8-foot-tall) steel statue of the player created by Spanish sculptor Jordi Diez Fernandez was unveiled in 2021 as a tribute to its greatest champion.

After the tennis great made his announcement, the tournament wrote a short note to Nadal in an Instagram post: “Rafa, We can’t imagine how hard this decision was. We’ll definitely miss you at this year’s Roland Garros,” whose main draw gets under way on May 28 and runs until June 11.

“Take care of yourself to come back stronger on courts. Hoping to see you next year in Paris.” EFE


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