Tennis-Nadal to miss French Open, 2024 likely to be last year of career
(Reuters) -Holder Rafa Nadal will miss the French Open after failing to regain full fitness from a hip injury suffered at the Australian Open in January, and the 14-times Roland Garros winner added he expects to retire following the 2024 season.
Nadal, who has dominated the claycourt season for close to two decades, has competed at Roland Garros every year since claiming the first of his 22 majors in Paris in 2005.
"I'll look to be 100% ready for next year, which I believe will be the last year of my professional career," Nadal told a news conference at his tennis academy in Mallorca, Spain.
"The evolution of the injury I sustained in Australia has not gone as I would have liked. I have lost goals along the way, and Roland Garros becomes impossible."
Nadal said he needs to stop playing for the foreseeable future to make a full recovery and return for what he anticipates will be his farewell season.
"I'll not establish a date for my return. I'll see how my body responds and take it from there," said the 36-year-old, who is tied with Novak Djokovic with a men's record 22 slam titles. "If I keep playing at this moment, I don't think I can be there next year.
"I don't know if I'll be able to come back in the highest level and compete for Grand Slams. What I will try to do is to give myself the opportunity to go back to what could be my final year competing at the highest level."
The French Open runs from May 28 to June 11.
French Open organisers said on Twitter: "We can't imagine how hard this decision was. We'll definitely miss you at this year's Roland Garros. Take care of yourself to come back stronger on court. Hoping to see you next year in Paris."
Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who is set to reclaim the top ranking before the French Open, and world number three Daniil Medvedev said they hoped for a swift return to court for Nadal.
"Very painful and sad for everyone that you can't be at Roland Garros or play more this year," Alcaraz wrote on Twitter. "I hope that 2024 will be a great season for you and that you can say goodbye like the great champion you are."
Medvedev said the French Open draw would now be wide open.
"Even if he wouldn't be 100% physically, but decided to play, he'd be a favourite," Medvedev said in an on-court interview at the Italian Open.
"Hopefully he can come back, play some more Slams... He's an amazing player, amazing athlete, one of the best in history."
Nadal overcame a niggling foot injury to beat Casper Ruud in last year's French Open final. But he has struggled with his latest issue and has not competed since January after hurting his hip flexor in his second-round match against Mackenzie McDonald that effectively ended his Melbourne Park title defence.
Nadal was initially set to miss up to eight weeks but skipped claycourt tournaments in Madrid and Rome to build his fitness after being ruled out of events at Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Barcelona earlier this season.
In March, Nadal fell out of the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time since 2005 and is currently 14th.
Nadal's 14 French Open titles are the most by any player at a single major. He boasts a stunning 112-3 record in Paris and is widely regarded as the 'King of Clay'.
"With what that tournament is for me, you can imagine how difficult it is," Nadal said. "I need to put a stop to my sporting career for a while. I will try to regenerate my body during these months."
Nadal added one of his goals for next year was to compete at the Paris Olympics, when the tennis tournament will be staged at Roland Garros.
"It's an extra motivation to focus in my return," he said. "I went through some very difficult years and I think it's time to take better care of my body, I have suffered a lot with injuries... What will happen next year I don't know.
"Roland Garros will always be Roland Garros with or without me ... there will be a new champion and I'm sure the tournament will be a big success."
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, Fernando Kallas and Hritika Sharma; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)