Tears anticipate the end: Rafael Nadal said goodbye to Spain

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“It was a joke, next year I’ll be back, man,” says Rafael Nadal as the Caja Mágica chants his name. He confirmed later, it was his last time competing in Madrid. So, according to him, the last time playing on the tour in front of his home crowd. Rafael Nadal said goodbye to Spain

He announced in Barcelona that there would be no more Conde de Godó with his name on the list. The same happened this Tuesday, April 30th at the Madrid Open, the tournament he won five times (2005, ’10, ’13, ’14 and ’17); the event on clay (from 2009) where his style of play was “less” favored thanks to those 500 meters above sea level that help tennis players with an attacking game and big serve.

Like Jiri Lehecka’s style, Czech, 31st in the world. Lehecka, who was born the same year that Nadal turned professional, will always remember the day he beat the Spaniard 7-5, 6-4 and then caused an explosion of affection towards the most important athlete of this land. He then sat on the bench to witness in the front row of an emotional tribute to the former world number one.

The men of Nadal’s work team and other members of his family, in a corner, feeling emotional. Toni, his uncle and former coach, was not seen in the group. The women, elsewhere, seated behind the baseline. No smiles. His wife Xisca Perelló and mother Ana María Parera wept as the tribute video of Nadal’s successes was played in Madrid. The face of his sister Maribel, loaded with sadness as never shown in a tennis court before, delivered perhaps, an important message. Was it really the last time of the professional tennis player Nadal on a tennis court in Spain?

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Maribel Nadal
Maribel Nadal cried during the tribute to his brother Rafael.
Rafael Nadal said goodby to his people in Spain. He said that was his last participation in the Madrid Open

Since that press conference in Mallorca in May 2023, 22-time Grand Slam champion has been like a sea of contradictions about his future. The Spaniard assures that he does not have many ideas about what will happen, but he recognizes that in certain tournaments he has already fulfilled his last performances.

He has also talked about the desire to create for his son, little Rafael, memories of his father being competitive on a tennis court, and his inner circle assures that if he finds the return to competition, Nadal will not want to stop playing. That he doesn’t put a deadline on his career, but at the same time his body gives him a reality check.

“I think life and my body have been sending me signals for some time that this day had to come at the right time, I’ve been able to do it playing on a court that was a dream for me and on top of that doing it in one of the places I’ve been most excited about playing,” said the former number one in Madrid.

His next challenge is in Rome, but what really matters is Paris. Roland Garros and -from a still uncertain way of entry- the Olympic Games will be the competitions where Nadal will define if he really wants to remain a professional tennis player.

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