Arguably the greatest clay court player of all time – and one of the best on any surface – has announced his plans to retire from tennis at the end of the 2024 season.
Rafa Nadal has won a joint-record 22 Grand Slam titles including 14 at the French Open, although he won’t return to Rolland Garros this year to defend his title after confirming he will miss the tournament through injury.
And in an emotional interview, Nadal all but confirmed that 2024 will be his final year as a tennis professional as an accumulation of injuries has become too much to bear.
“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,” he confirmed.
Explaining his absence from the French Open, which gets underway on Monday, Nadal said:
“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].”
It will be the first time since 2005, his tournament debut, that Nadal will miss the French Open. His win-rate at Roland Garros – 97.4% – is a record that will surely never be beaten.
The Spaniard’s retirement plans come less than a year after Roger Federer – a member of a quartet alongside Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray that dominated tennis for more than a decade in the noughties and 2010s – confirmed that he was hanging up his racket.
The G.O.A.T of Tennis?
It’s astonishing to think how many Grand Slam titles Nadal would have won had Djokovic and Federer in particular never taken up tennis.
He was ranked inside the ATP’s top-10 from April 2005 to March 2023, which unsurprisingly is a record, and he is one of just two players to complete the ‘golden grand slam’ – winning all four majors in a year – twice.
The records kept on tumbling for Nadal, the first player to win Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces in a single year, and an Olympic gold medal at Beijing in 2008 completed the full set of honours that any tennis star wants to win.
But as the sands of time slip away, injuries for any sportsperson become harder to deal with as they get older. A hip problem, suffered at the Australian Open back in January, continues to trouble Nadal to this day – confirmed by the Spaniard as he revealed he will be taking an extended period away from tennis to recuperate.
This is a guy who won the 2022 French Open on one leg, which confirms that Nadal is made of tough stuff. Let’s hope he gets that victory lap in 2024 to celebrate the careers of one of the greatest sportsmen that has ever lived.