As was to be expected, speculations around Rafael Nadal’s retirement have been reignited following the announcement that the Spaniard had pulled out of the Barcelona Open this week.
With Nadal’s 37th birthday approaching in June and injury struggle prevailing, likelihood of a 15th French Open title appear slim.
NADAL’S INJURY WOE
Nadal has yet to make an appearance on the regular ATP Tour in 2023, with two matches at the Australian Open and two matches at the United Cup the only he has managed to play so far this year.
In fact, Nadal has only played eight matches since last year’s US Open; admitting his chronic foot pain remains unsolved despite time away from the court.
Nadal is also recovering from a hip problem that he states has caused delays in his return to full fitness.
“I am taking it week by week, I’m having tests to see the progress I am making from the injury. I haven’t talked much since what happened in Australia, but I had a big, big breakdown,” he is quoted as saying by Puntodebreak.com.
“It was a very big tear in the muscle, I tore a little bit of the tendon. It is a very complicated place in all sports, but in tennis we get strength from there, so it is a slower recovery than we would like.
“We have no choice but to be a little patient; it is true that the calendar is passing and that I am no longer 20 years old, and after a year like the one I’ve been having, one gets tired, but I do what I can.
“Every day I’m at the Academy training, gym, recovery and doing 15 or 20 minutes on the court so that my arm doesn’t degenerate.
“The important thing for me, beyond all that, is to try and be healthy so I can compete for what I want and fight for the ultimate goal, which right now has to be Roland Garros.”
There have long been suggestions that Nadal may call time on his record-breaking career at the French Open, where he has won a remarkable 14 times on his beloved Court Philippe Chatrier.
Now there are rumours swirling on the tennis grapevine that Nadal could be forced to bring down the curtain on his tennis journey in 2023, with next month’s French Open a location he might choose to play his final match.
The fact that he is putting so much effort into his latest comeback confirms his passion to compete for another title at Roland Garros burns brightly.
Meanwhile, respected coach Patrick Mouratoglou has backed Nadal to perform at a high level in the French Open.
“Rafa has one goal, to win more Grand Slams than anyone else,” the Frenchman told Eurosport.
“He knows that his number one chance is the French Open and I think he told himself that he wanted to arrive in Paris in the best shape possible.
“But it’s harder and harder every year because his body is very worn out, more than other players. He gave 1000% in training and matches. That means that his annual playing time is getting shorter every year.
“I think his goal is still Roland Garros, which is why he’s been preparing on clay for a long time. He’ll be in shape tennis-wise.
“Will he be physically fit? I can’t say, it will depend on how he manages his injuries.
“He’ll have to have a few matches, but I’m not really worried about him. He will be ready for Roland Garros.
“The rest of the year is something else. If he does well at Roland-Garros, he’s done well for the year and he often plays pretty well on hard courts.”
CAN NADAL WIN AGAIN?
What can we expect from Nadal when he gets back on court?
History tells us he will spring back into form quickly, with his remarkable win at the 2022 Australian Open coming after an extended break away from the game with injury.
He admitted prior to that event that he feared he may never play again, but that success proves Nadal is a player who can never be written off.
There will come a moment when Nadal’s powers of recovery evaporate, but anyone who writes off this legend at the French Open is playing a dangerous game.
Will Nadal retire in Paris a few weeks from now?
That final decision may not have been made just yet, but the moment of truth is fast approaching.
READ MORE: Is Carlos Alcaraz the new king of tennis?