“Sorry, but no”: forget retirement, Rafael Nadal wants to continue being a tennis player

Nadal no se retira
Rafael Nadal durante un entrenamiento previo a Roland Garros 2024
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“Rafa, what are your plans this summer with the boat, where do you plan to sail to?

Rafael Nadal looked at looked at the person who had just asked him the question and, with some anger, a little offended, replied: “But what are you telling me? I’m a professional tennis player, I don’t have time to go on a trip”.

The dialogue took place in the weeks when uncertainty was well established and the idea that Nadal was irremediably saying goodbye to tennis prevailed. Which is also what a good part of his entourage made him see with caution: “Isn’t that enough, Rafa?

And it is true that it was Nadal himself who spoke in 2023 of retiring in 2024, but the statements of the Spaniard should always be given a second reading, and, above all, do not overlook the little phrases, the phrases he adds when you think he has already said everything.

What’s more: Nadal was very clear as early as 18 May 2023, when he announced that he would no longer play for the rest of the year in order to prepare for a full-fledged farewell in 2024. Because once he said that, he added: you never know what can happen, I can’t predict the future, who knows what I will do if I recover physically and feel better.

Or, in his words that day: “I want to finish the way I want to finish. I don’t want to leave early, it’s always worth making an extra effort, that’s always been my philosophy.

That’s why on 15 April 2024 we published in CLAY that Nadal was dreaming of much more than his last Roland Garros: “Be amazed, yes. Although you shouldn’t, because Nadal is being more Nadal than ever. He enjoys what seems impossible, because he feels he can change the course of things and make it possible. He feels he can win.

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And that is also why on 12 May we published in CLAY that Nadal was closer to continuing to play in 2025 than to retiring in 2024: “If you sharpen your eyes a little and analyse what has happened in the last twelve months, things become much simpler: Nadal is closer to making the decision to continue playing in 2025 than to say goodbye in 2024”.

The one seen this Saturday in the Roland Garros press room is a real Nadal, that hyper-competitive and eternally ambitious Nadal that people like his uncle Toni and his friend Juan Monaco know very well.

“The limit is going to be set by him. I know him very well, and I think that if he prepares to come back, he prepares to win, he doesn’t prepare to make the quarter-finals. If he comes back and wins he won’t say goodbye to tennis,” Monaco said in an interview CLAY published on 28 June 2023.

“I think it’s a little bit like that. Yes,” certified Toni Nadal in an interview with CLAY published on 10 July 2023.

This Saturday, 25 May 2024, Nadal proved everyone right.

Nadal forever: CLAY’s story on May 12th

“There is a chance that it will be my last Roland Garros, yes, but if I have to say it 100 per cent, I’m sorry, but no. I hope you understand me, I’ve spent a lot of time at Roland Garros. I hope you understand me, I’ve been through a long process, with a big recovery, suffering, and now I feel better,” Nadal said, opening the eyes like saucers to those who had believed that the 14-time Roland Garros champion was really capable of retiring in a season without pain or glory.

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“I’m not a person who reacts by defeats, but by my feelings. And now they are better than a month and a half ago (…). Somehow I don’t want to close the door one hundred percent, I’m enjoying myself, I’m travelling with the family, they’re enjoying it and I haven’t been able to explore if I’m going to be able to play without limitations. Give me time, maybe in a month and a half I’ll say I can’t. But today I can’t guarantee that I’ll be the one. But today I can’t guarantee it will be the last.”

“The training I am doing tells me that I am not that far away. I’m not a person who is usually deluded, I’m realistic and critical. Am I perfect? No. I need to improve, but I’m being competitive in every training session against good and important people. The pity is that we are so close and it has happened for such a short time. It’s the first week that I feel free, thinking about the ball and little else. I can play without limitations and think about playing tennis”.

Forget retirement. Nadal feels like a tennis player again, and there is probably nothing in the world he likes more than that.

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