Rafael Nadal, a 14-time French Open men’s singles champion, will not be competing in the tournament that defined his career this year after an injury has sidelined him for months.
Nadal, who has played in Paris every year since 2005 and has a staggering 112-3 record at Roland Garros, made the announcement Thursday at a press conference at the Tennis Academy in Mallorca, Spain.
Nadal has taken a further extended hiatus to recover his health and said he would try to play next season, “probably my last year on the Pro Tour.”
“That’s my idea,” he said. “Still, I can’t say 100% of the time, because I don’t know what will happen, but my thoughts and motivation are to enjoy all the tournaments that have been held so far and try to say goodbye.” It was important to me in my tennis career. ”
His absence from the French Open, which is due to start on May 28, came as no surprise. He hasn’t played since injuring his lower abdomen and right leg at the Australian Open in January. But the reality of the announcement, and the imminent departure of his longtime reign on red clay, sent shockwaves through the tennis world.
“Over the past four months, I have tried my best every day, but it has been a very difficult few months as I have not been able to find a solution to the problems I have had in Australia,” Nadal said. “I’m still in a situation where I don’t feel ready to compete to the standards required to play at Roland Garros.”
Nadal won last year’s French Open to clinch his 22nd Grand Slam singles title and has repeatedly called his second major of the year the most important of his career. there is His absence leaves a huge void, and a statue of him right next to the main stadium ensures the theme of the entire event.
Nadal has made it clear that he doesn’t want to play in a tournament that doesn’t have a realistic chance of being truly competitive.
“I’m not going to be at Roland Garros, I’m just trying to be there and put myself in a position I don’t want to be in,” he said.
Nadal said he has endured pain as he prepared for the French Open, but will now take a long break from training to stay fit.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back on the practice court, but I’m going to take some time off,” he said. “Maybe two months. Maybe a month and a half. Maybe three months. Maybe four months. I don’t know. I’m not a person who likes to predict the future. Just follow your emotions and what you truly believe is the right thing to do for your body and your personal well-being.”
As the professional tennis tour meanders through weeks of the European clay season that Nadal has reigned throughout his career, Nadal’s health and rehabilitation process during his hiatus have been some of the major story points in the match. . Talk of his absence from the Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid tournaments grew each week.
His most extensive comments before Thursday were released on video posted on social media Last month, he explained that his ongoing struggle to recover from a torn psoas major in his lower abdomen and right upper leg didn’t go as planned. Nadal was injured in January in the second round of the Australian Open, the first major tournament of the year, when he was trying to defend his title.
Days after Nadal’s injury in Australia, Nadal’s team announced he would be out for six to eight weeks, a schedule that would allow him to return in time for the spring clay-court season in Europe. deaf.
Nadal’s announcement earlier this month that he would not be playing for Roma, a record-breaking 10-time champion, sounded alarm bells. The conditions there are closest to those of the French Open. Over the weekend, organizers of the Challenger tournament, which will take place on red soil in France next week, announced that Nadal is not seeking to compete in the tournament. In other words, the opening match at Roland Garros will be the first full-fledged match in over four months.
Nadal said last month that he would receive additional treatment for his injury, but declined to disclose what the treatment was and said he did not know when he would be able to compete again. Throughout his record-setting but injury-plagued career, Nadal has largely relied on a group of medical professionals in his native Spain, including Dr. Ángel Luis Cotro.
It’s not unprecedented for Nadal to enter a Grand Slam tournament without making adjustments on the corresponding surface. Nadal went to Wimbledon last year without playing on grass since mid-2019. He reached the semi-finals but had to withdraw due to an abdominal injury.
The psoas major injury is the latest in a string of ailments over the past 18 months that have caused Nadal, who turns 37 on June 3, including recurring chronic leg injuries, cracked ribs and a torn abdominal muscle. belongs to. Usually misses many of the tournaments on his schedule. It came at a time in his career when his retirement became less conceptual and started to feel more like a pressing reality with each passing week.
Worse, tennis can punish inactivity and make returning from a lengthy layoff particularly difficult. If Nadal misses the entire clay-court season, he will experience the most disastrous drop in world rankings he has seen in the last 20 years.
In March, Nadal dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in 18 years. By missing the French Open, he will likely drop out of the top 100 for the first time since 2003. However, depending on how long he’s been out and how long he’s been out, he can apply for a wildcard to enter any tournament. His rankings qualify him for protection, but he may not be seeded and will likely face top players much sooner than normal.
This will be a special challenge for Nadal. Nadal often talked about the need to play with him and find his rhythm by winning back-to-back opponents. That opportunity only comes with a high ranking, and winning matches is the only way to increase your ranking. Britain’s Andy Murray, who turned 36 on May 15, is a two-time Wimbledon champion who climbed to the top of the world rankings in 2016 after returning from major hip surgery four years ago. , are struggling with this situation.
Nadal’s absence leaves the door wide open for Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz. Carlos Alcaraz turned 20 earlier this month, making him the youngest player ever to reach No. 1 in the world after winning the US Open last year. Or Novak Djokovic, who is tied with Nadal for 22 Grand Slam singles titles. Djokovic has had injury problems during the clay-court season, but he looks good at the Italian Open in Rome this week.
When he returned to the tour in April, he aggravated an elbow injury at Monte Carlo and Banja Luka. He then withdrew from Madrid to rest at six-time winners Roma and most recently at two-time winner Roland Garros in 2021.
World No. 1 Djokovic missed two important hard-court tournaments in the United States in March after being barred from entering the country without being vaccinated against COVID-19. The Biden administration has lifted that requirement, allowing Djokovic to compete in the US Open.