Rafael Nadal withdraws from French Open as Spaniard reveals plans to retire from tennis in 2024

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the French Open after admitting defeat in his race to be fit for Roland Garros, and revealed that he intends for 2024 to be his final year on tour.

The 36-year-old has been out since January with a hip injury, his last match a straight-sets defeat to Mackenzie McDonald in which he took a medical timeout and struggled with his movement throughout.

It is an issue that has forced Nadal to miss the clay-court season up to this point, with his run in the top ten of the world rankings coming to an end in March after a record 912 weeks, and he has had events, such as those in Monte Carlo and Rome, that he has dominated for nearly two decades.

The Spaniard, who has won the French Open a remarkable 14 times, confirmed in a press conference on Thursday that he will not be defending his title later this month, the first time he has missed the tournament since 2004.

Nadal did not give an exact timeline for his return, but will take a number of months off and will not compete at Wimbledon later this summer.

“The last four months have been very difficult months, because we were not able to find the solution to the problem that I had in Australia,” Nadal said.

“Today I’m still in a position that I’m not able to feel ready to compete at the standards that I need to be to play at Roland Garros. I’m not a guy that’s 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.”

The Spaniard spoke of how he has struggled with injuries since the pandemic, preventing him from enjoying practice and competitive matches despite the success he was still able to have on court.

As a result he will now step away from the sport “for his personal happiness” and in the hope that his body will recover enough for him to have one final year as a professional player in 2024.

“My ambition is to give myself an opportunity to enjoy next year, that is probably going to be my last year in the professional tour,” Nadal said.

“That’s my idea, even though I can’t say 100% that it’s going to be like this, because you never know what is going to happen.

“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 try to enjoy that being competitive and enjoy being on court, something that today is not possible.

“I really believe that if I keep going now, I will not be able to make that happen. I don’t know if I stop I will be able to make it happen, but I think the chances are much higher.”

Carlos Alcarez will go into the French Open as favourite, with the 20-year-old picking up clay-court titles in Barcelona and Madrid already this season. He arrives in Paris as a Grand Slam champion for the first time too, after victory at the US Open last year.

Novak Djokovic, beaten in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros last year by Nadal, has the opportunity to move ahead of the Spaniard and secure a record 23rd Grand Slam win, one that would raise the prospect of him sweeping tennis’ four majors in 2023.