Rafael Nadal: Record 14-time champion out of French Open for first time in 19 years with hip injury

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Rafael Nadal receives treatment after injuring his hip at the 2023 Australian Open
Nadal’s injured his hip in an Australian Open second-round defeat by American Mackenzie McDonald on 18 January

Rafael Nadal will miss the French Open for the first time in 19 years after a hip injury ruled out the record 14-time men’s singles champion.

The 36-year-old Spaniard, who has won 22 major men’s titles, also said he plans to retire after the 2024 season.

“I didn’t make the decision, my body made the decision. To play Roland Garros is impossible,” he said.

“Next year will probably be my last year, that is my idea. If I keep going now I won’t be able to make it happen.”

Nadal holds the joint record number of men’s major triumphs alongside Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. He has won 70 other ATP titles and spent 209 weeks at world number one – the sixth longest amount in ATP history.

Known as the ‘King of Clay’, Nadal has won 112 of his 115 matches at the French Open.

However, the Mallorcan left-hander has not played since sustaining the problem at the Australian Open in January.

Nadal has been practising in recent weeks, but not been fit enough to play a tournament in the run-up to Roland Garros.

The French Open starts in Paris on 28 May and runs until 11 June.

“I was working as much as possible every single day for the past four months and they have been difficult because we were not been able to find the solution to the problems I had in Australia,” he added.

“I’m still in the position where I am not able to feel ready to compete at the standards I need to be to play at Roland Garros.

“I am not the guy who will be at Roland Garros just try to be there and in a position where I don’t like to be.”

Nadal said he needs to stop playing for the foreseeable future in order to make a full recovery and return healthy to complete a farewell season in 2024.

His participation at Wimbledon, which he won in 2008 and 2010, remains in doubt. The Championships start at the All England Club on 3 July and run until 16 July.

“I will stop for a while, maybe one month and a half, maybe two months, maybe three months or maybe four months. I don’t know. I do not like to predict the future,” he said.

“I will do the right thing for my body and personal happiness.

“My goal and ambition is to try and stop and give myself an opportunity to enjoy the next year.

“That is my idea but I can’t say 100% it will be like this. My idea is to try to enjoy and say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important for me.”

Nadal injured his hip during a second-round defeat by American Mackenzie MacDonald in Melbourne and initially expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks.

An MRI scan two days after the match showed a tear in his left psoas muscle.

Last month, Nadal announced he would not be able to play the Madrid Open because the injury “still hadn’t healed” and was planning a different course of treatment.

Then he withdrew from this month’s Italian Open – another important clay-court tournament before the French Open – saying he had still not been able to train at a high level.

On Thursday, he announced he will miss Roland Garros for the first time in his career in a news conference at his academy in Mallorca.

Nadal won the French Open title in his first appearance there in 2005, going on to triumph another 13 times in the following 17 years.

No player has won as many singles titles at one major tournament as the Spaniard has at Roland Garros.

In a message to Nadal, the French Open said it could not “imagine how hard the decision” was for the player.

“We’ll definitely miss you at this year’s Roland Garros,” it said in a statement. “Take care of yourself to come back stronger on courts. Hoping to see you next year in Paris.”

‘Nadal harbours hopes for more titles’ – analysis

Russell Fuller, BBC Spot Tennis Correspondent

By missing the French Open for the first time since 2004, Nadal hopes he might just be in a position to win a 15th title in Paris this time next year.

He very much wants to be in Melbourne, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Paris, Wimbledon and New York next year to say goodbye. But you just know he will also very much hope he can win these tournaments for one last time.

It is, however, not very encouraging to hear him say no solution has yet been found to his hip problem.

And when he admitted pain has prevented him from enjoying both practice and competition in recent years, it reminded me of Andy Murray: who took his own break from the sport, and surgery in his case, to improve – above all else – his quality of life.

Tennis has been adjusting to the loss of Serena Williams and Roger Federer. And now there will be a Rafael Nadal size hole in the summer schedule.

But if it gives us another year, it will be worth the wait.

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