Rafael Nadal to retire next year? Tennis star says ‘Good chance that…’

Rafael Nadal, the 22-time major champion, acknowledged the possibility that 2024 might be his last season as an ATP professional, acknowledging that he might hang up his racquets at the end of next season.

The champion will make his return from a near year-long injury absence at the Australian Open warm-up event in Brisbane next month. Eleven months have passed since the Spaniard’s defeat at Melbourne Park in the second round by American MacKenzie McDonald. Due to his hip ailment, he required surgery twice and, while out of action, dropped to 664th place in the world rankings.

Nadal has erred on the side of caution since naming the 2024 season as a possible venue for his comeback. With a full year out of the game due to an iliopsoas injury in his left leg, the Spaniard is now counting down the days until his return to professional tournament tennis at the ATP 250 in Brisbane, which begins on December 29.

In a post on X, the 22-time Grand Slam champion wrote, “My last reflection after the announcement… of course I thought that it made no sense (to compete again)… that it has been many years…; I have fought and I have maintained the illusion at all times; I have had the right people around me as I have always had throughout my career…; … the people who want to see me play have had an impact; There is a good chance that it will be my last year, without a doubt. Thank you all.”

However, the Spaniard also stated that it “makes no sense” to establish a retirement date.

In a recent social media video, the 22-time Grand Slam champion discussed the potential of retiring, adding that there is even a chance he will retire midway through the season if his body does not cooperate.

In a season with extra incentives, such as the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, where tennis will be played on Roland Garros clay, the Spaniard has simply conveyed a message of hope. Only time will tell what the boundaries of his decisions are, including the date of the end of a career that has already gone down in modern sports history.

“It is a reality, there are many chances that it will be my last year, without any doubt. There are chances that it may only be half a year. There are possibilities that it may be a full year. There are possibilities that we may not be able to reach all that. These are things that right now I do not have the capacity to be able to answer. I am only in conditions to say that I return to compete. There are many possibilities that it is my last year and I am going to enjoy the tournaments in that way,” Nadal said as quoted by ATP.

At the same time, he stated that all of these are merely possibilities and that he has no way of knowing what the future holds for his career. For the time being, Nadal is content to relive the thrill of playing at the greatest level. Furthermore, the 37-year-old claimed that he did not want to make an official declaration since it would make him a slave to his own words. Instead, he intended to take things one day at a time, possibly continuing to play after next season if his body permits it.

“I do not want to announce it because in the end I do not know what can happen and I have to give myself the opportunity not to say one thing and then I can be a slave of what I have said. I think it is going to be like that but I can’t be 100 per cent sure because in the end I have worked a lot to come back to compete and if suddenly things and my physique allows me to continue and I enjoy what I do… why am I going to set a deadline?” he explained. 

(With inputs from ANI)

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Published: 08 Dec 2023, 12:03 PM IST

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