Rafa Nadal announcement stuns tennis world in shock development before French Open

The Spanish tennis champion was expected to be back in action at the Monte Carlo Masters.

Rafa Nadal has cast major doubts over his participation at the French Open after announcing his withdrawal from the Monte Carlo Masters. The 37-year-old tennis star hasn't played an ATP event since Brisbane in early January, but was expected to return in Monte Carlo for the start of the clay-court swing.

Nadal is almost certain to announce his retirement at some stage this year, with many of the belief he might play the French Open before calling it quits. But there are serious doubts about whether he will even play his favourite grand slam, which he has won a record 14 times.

Rafa Nadal.
Rafa Nadal won't be playing in Monte Carlo like many expected. Image: Getty

The Spanish champion skipped the Indian Wells tournament last month, saying he was not "ready to play at the highest level". But he was expected to ramp up his comeback on his favourite surface of clay, which would have seen him play in Monte Carlo.

But on Thursday evening he announced he won't be playing the tournament he often features at and wins. "These are very difficult moments for me, sporting wise," he said. "Unfortunately I have to tell you that I am not going to be playing in Monte Carlo. My body simply won't allow me.

"And even if I am working hard and making the maximum effort every day with all the will to play and compete again at tournaments that have been very important for me, the truth is that I can't play today. You have no idea how hard this is for me to not be able to play these events. The only thing I can do is to accept the situation and try to look at the immediate future keeping the excitement and will to play in order to give me a chance for things to get better."

The Monte Carlo Masters kicks off on Sunday, and marks the official start of the clay season. Nadal has won the event a record 11 times, but his last victory came back in 2018.

The French Open main draw begins on May 26. Nadal, who last won the Roland Garros title in 2022, has not competed at a grand slam since his second-round exit at the Australian Open in 2023.

Rafa Nadal, pictured here at the Monte Carlo Masters in 2021.
Rafa Nadal at the Monte Carlo Masters in 2021.

Tennis world stunned by Rafa Nadal's latest withdrawal

During a press conference last May, Nadal said his intention moving forward was “to try to say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important to me, being competitive and enjoying”. He also told Spanish reporters: “I don’t think I deserve to end like this. I’ve worked hard enough throughout my career for my end not to be in a press conference”.


Unfortunately it isn't panning out that way, and Nadal is continuing to skip a number of tournaments he would normally play when fully healthy. It appears as though he is putting all his effort into being 100 per cent fit for the French Open, but doubts will remain about whether he ever returns to the court at ATP level.

"Rafael Nadal is supposed to be waving goodbye to his fans at all the great tennis venues this year," wrote Simon Briggs of the UK Telegraph on Thursday. "Unfortunately, his bashed-up, 37-year-old body is refusing to co-operate.

"April and May are meant to be Nadal’s strongest months of the year. They constitute the heart of the European clay-court swing, which he has dominated for the best part of two decades. Unsurprisingly, his announcement had a mournful tone."