Nadal misses Roland Garros for the first time in 19 years and puts his career on pause: “I don’t deserve to finish like this”
Rafael Nadal’s nightmare came true on Thursday: Nadal misses Roland Garros, affected by a psoas injury suffered in January from which he has not been able to recover. But the nightmare goes even further: he will not play until the end of the year and 2024 will be the final season of his career. If his physique allows it.
“The injury that I got in Australia has not evolved as we would have liked, we have been working at all times without stopping, but the last goal, the most important, Roland Garros, today is impossible. I won’t be able to be at Roland Garros after many years without missing the event. You can imagine how difficult this is for me,” Nadal said during a press conference in Mallorca.
“I have no intention of continuing to play for the next few months. It’s been a difficult last few years, my day-to-day life has been at a very low level. The reality is that, on the outside there are always victories and good times, on a personal level, daily work, which is what gives you happiness have been really difficult years, it has cost me to have continuity in every way because of the body that has been chaining injury after injury. That, when you can not do things with happiness, is also transferred to the personal field. They have been complicated years. You have to put a full stop,” explained the former world number one, who will be 37 in two weeks.
To get an idea of the movement of tennis-tectonic plates that implies his absence from the French Open, the last time Nadal wanted to play there and an injury prevented him from doing so was in 2004. It was 19 years later. That time he was 17, today he is 36. In the meantime he won 22 Grand Slam tournaments, a record he shares with Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, with whom he was in a race to be the most successful player of all time.
“You can’t be demanding and demanding on the body. What happens next year I don’t know. You can have your intentions, and if I can be competitive again to win Grand Slams, I don’t know. It’s going to be difficult, isn’t it? I’m not an irrational person, I’m quite rational. But I’m not a negative person either. What I’m going to try to do is give myself a chance to compete again. My intention is to make it my last year, you never know what can happen. I’m going to try to make sure that my last year is not just as a comparsa. I’m going to fight for it. I don’t know what the reality will be, we’ll have to wait and see.
“Of course the Olympics would be one of the competitions I would like to be in,” added Nadal to a question about whether Paris 2024 is a goal that motivates him.
“Things will be done in the right way. If I need invitations I guess there won’t be a problem with that, I’ve earned that. We’re going to do things the right way, I’m going to stop, I’m not going to train. I need to stop, because if I don’t, I don’t think I can make it to next year. We’ve come from some very complicated years, it’s been very difficult for us to find continuity in terms of work. Me and all those who work alongside me could do with a break. Let’s see if the body will regenerate itself over the next few months, taking the load off”.
“I don’t like the word, but I don’t deserve to finish like this. I think I’ve worked hard throughout my career for my end to be here, in a press conference”.
“I have the satisfaction that during my life I have done the things we have sought, sometimes they have been achieved, sometimes not. I want to end the way I want to end. I don’t want to leave early, it’s always worth making one more effort, that’s always been my philosophy”.
How did you make the decision? “You listen to yourself and you understand what is happening. Acceptance from a process of honesty towards oneself and decisions are taken, which are not dramatic, everything has a beginning and above all, unfortunately, everything has an end.
“I am just one more of all these endings of sportsmen, artists and actors. A stage will come to an end next year in which I think we have been very happy, we have enjoyed moments we would never have dreamed we could have lived, another different stage will begin, but in which we don’t have to be less happy”.
And what will he do this year without playing or training, the discipline of a lifetime? “Right now I have plans for the next few months, things I haven’t done in the last 20 years, the freedom of not having a timetable. My body will tell me what will happen, and if it responds, I have faith that I will be able to do something worth the effort.
And if he returns in 2024 and does very well, would he continue beyond that? “It’s difficult for me to imagine this situation. I’m a positive person, but I’m not delusional. It’s hard for me to think that with the way I’ve been drifting over the years, my body will magically be perfect. My intention is this, what may happen in the future I can’t predict. Possible? Everything is possible in this life. Improbable? It is also improbable.
One of Nadal’s phrases – “I don’t deserve to finish like this” – prompted an obvious question: how does he deserve to finish? The answer was simple, but profound: “I don’t know. To feel like a good level player”.