Rafael Nadal to miss first French Open since 2004, says 2024 will 'probably' be final year of career

Rafael Nadal's quest for his 15th French Open trophy will have to wait another year. The Spanish tennis legend announced on Thursday that he will be forced to miss the upcoming French Open due to a hip flexor injury.

Nadal also announced that 2024 will "probably" be the final year of his professional tennis career.

Nadal, who will turn 37 in June, originally injured his hip in January during the Australian Open, falling in the second round to upstart Mackenzie McDonald. At Thursday's news conference, Nadal said that his hip injury is not yet healed, and that he has no plans to compete in the next few months. He wouldn't put a timeframe on his return, but said he hopes to be well enough to compete in the Davis Cup, which is held in September.

Roland Garros is Nadal's playground and has been since he won his first trophy there in 2006. He's won 14 in all, an astounding number and a testament to his excellence on clay. He's played through intense pain before, even winning the 2022 French Open with a partially anesthetized foot. A French Open happening without him is an early preview of a Rafa-less future. The last time Nadal didn't play at Roland Garros was 2004, when he was just 17 years old. He's played in all 18 French Opens since then.

Nadal doesn't want to go out this way

Nadal was asked during the news conference why he's not retiring now since he's going to miss essentially the entire 2023 tennis season. His answer was exactly what you'd expect a GOAT to say, but it's also classic Rafa.

That career philosophy is why he's won 22 Grand Slam titles while dealing with a litany of injuries that you'd expect from 2-3 players instead of one single Rafa Nadal. Through the years he's handled injuries to his wrists, shoulders, back, elbows, thighs, knees, ankles and feet.

After fighting injuries for much of his brilliant career, Nadal doesn't want it to end due to an injury. He wants to choose how he goes out instead of his body choosing for him.