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.
Rafael Nadal: "Next year, that's probably going to be my last year in a professional tour." Note that Nadal could play at Roland Garros two times in 2024, for the French Open and for the Paris Olympics. pic.twitter.com/EmMe3ODwjv
— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) May 18, 2023
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.
Nadal doesn't want to retire: "I will be back when my body is ready. Maybe in the Davis Cup at the end of the year." 🙏
— Luigi Gatto (@gigicat7_) May 18, 2023
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.
Nadal is asked why he’s planning to come back next year rather than stopping now.
He said his career doesn’t deserve to end like this, that he’s tried too hard throughout his career for that.
“It’s always worth giving a little more.”
Says that’s been his career philosophy.
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) May 18, 2023
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.
With Rafa's Roland Garros participation uncertain, here's a look at all of Nadal's injuries over the years.
This man is an absolute warrior. Not just for playing through pain, but for conquering it in so many matches
Ask yourself this. How many slams would a healthy Nadal have? pic.twitter.com/82y4PkoNfY
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) May 17, 2023
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.