Injured Rafael Nadal pulls out of French Open

14-time French Open men’s singles champion Rafael Nadal will not compete in this year’s event after an injury sidelined him for months.

Nadal, who has competed in Paris every year since 2005 and has an astonishing 112-3 record at Roland Garros, made the announcement at a press conference on Thursday at his tennis academy on the Spanish island of Majorca.

Nadal said he would extend his break from the game further to try to stay healthy and try to play next season, which he said would be “my last year on the professional tour”.

“That was my idea,” he said. “Even that, I can’t say it will be 100 percent like this because you don’t know what’s going to happen, but my idea and motivation is to try to enjoy and say goodbye to all the matches. It’s important for me in my tennis career.”

His withdrawal from the French Open, which starts on May 28, is no surprise. He missed the Australian Open in January due to an abdominal and right leg injury. But the truth of the announcement, and the fact that he has not come close from the red clay where he reigned for so long, has shocked the tennis world.

“For the last four months I’ve been working as hard as I can every day and they’ve been very difficult months because we couldn’t solve the problem I had in Australia,” Nadal said. “Even today I can’t help but feel that I’m not ready to compete at the level I should be playing at Roland Garros.”

Nadal won his 22nd Grand Slam singles title at last year’s French Open and has repeatedly called the second major of the year the most important tournament of his career. His absence will create a huge void, ensuring that his statue is a bit further away from the main arena and a theme throughout the event.

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Nadal made it clear that he did not want to play in the tournament without any chance of being truly competitive.

“I’m not a guy who’s going to be at Roland Garros, trying to be there, putting myself in a position I don’t want to be in,” he said.

After pushing himself through pain to prepare for the French Open, Nadal said he will now take a long break from training in an effort to get fit.

“I don’t know when I will be able to get back on the training court, but I will stop for a while,” he said. “Maybe two months. Maybe a month and a half. Maybe three months. Maybe four months. I do not know. I’m not a guy who likes to predict the future, but I follow my personal feelings and what I believe is the right thing for my body and my personal happiness.

For weeks, as the pro tennis tour winds down the European clay season that he has dominated throughout his career, Nadal’s health and his rehabilitation process have been some of the game’s major plot points. His withdrawals from tournaments like Monte Carlo, then Barcelona, ​​then Madrid rang louder each week.

His most detailed comments before Thursday came in a video Posted on social media Last month, he explained that his ongoing battle to recover from torn ligaments in his lower abdomen and upper right leg had not gone as planned. Nadal suffered the injury in January in the second round of the year’s first major, the Australian Open, where he was trying to defend his title.

In the days following Nadal’s injury in Australia, his team said he would miss six to eight weeks, a timetable that would allow Nadal to return for the spring clay court season in Europe.

The announcement earlier this month that Nadal would not play in Rome, where he had won a record 10 times, set off huge alarm bells. The conditions there are very close to the French Open. Over the weekend, Nadal, the organizer of a Challenger event on red clay in France next week, said he did not want to enter the tournament. That means his opening match at Roland Garros should be his first real match in more than four months.

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Nadal said last month he planned to receive additional treatment for the injury, but did not specify what that treatment would be and said he did not know when he would be able to compete again. Throughout an accomplished but injury-plagued career, Nadal relied mainly on a team of medical experts in his native Spain, including Dr. Angel Ruiz Cotoro.

It is not unheard of for Nadal to enter a Grand Slam tournament without playing on the relevant surface. Nadal entered Wimbledon last year, having not played a competitive match on grass since mid-2019. He advanced to the semi-finals but withdrew due to an abdominal injury.

The psoas muscle injury is the latest in a string of ailments over the past 18 months – a chronic leg injury, a broken rib and a pulled abdominal muscle – for Nadal, who turned 37 on June 3. He missed several matches that were regular in his schedule. It comes at a time in his life when retirement began to feel less conceptual and more like a looming reality with each passing week.

To make matters worse, tennis punishes inactivity, making it especially difficult to recover from long layoffs. If Nadal misses the entire clay court season, he will experience the worst drop in the world rankings, unlike anything he has experienced in the past two decades.

In March, Nadal dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in 18 years. By missing out on the French Open, he is likely to drop out of the top 100 for the first time since 2003. Whereas, he can claim a wild card and enter any tournament. His ranking will qualify for protection, he may not be ranked and he is likely to face better players much earlier than usual.

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It will be a special challenge for Nadal, who has often talked himself into form and finding his rhythm with back-to-back wins against lesser competition. That chance doesn’t come without a high rank, and winning matches is the only way to achieve a high rank. Britain’s Andy Murray, who turns 36 on May 15, is a two-time Wimbledon champion who climbed to No. 1 in 2016 and has been battling this dynamic since returning from major hip surgery four years ago.

Nadal was absent for Spanish sensation Carlos Algarz, who turned 20 earlier this month and became the youngest man to reach the world No. 1 after winning the US Open last year. Or Novak Djokovic, who joins Nadal with 22 Grand Slam singles titles. Djokovic has had his own injury problems during the clay court season, although he looks to be in solid form heading into this week’s Italian Open in Rome.

When he rejoined the Tour in April, he aggravated an elbow injury in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He then withdrew from Madrid so he could rest in Rome, where he won six times, and Roland Garros, where he won twice, most recently in 2021.

World No. 1 Djokovic missed two crucial hard court matches in the United States in March because he could not enter the country without being vaccinated against Covid-19. The Biden administration ended that requirement, meaning Djokovic can play in the US Open.

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