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Rafael Nadal to miss French Open, likely to retire in 2024

Rafael Nadal

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 05: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning match point against Casper Ruud of Norway during the Men’s Singles Final match on Day 15 of The 2022 French Open at Roland Garros on June 05, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

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Rafael Nadal said he will likely retire from professional tennis in the second half of 2024, plus he will miss Roland Garros this year for the first time in 19 years with a left hip flexor injury that has sidelined him from competition since January’s Australian Open.

“Next year, that’s probably going to be my last year in a professional tour,” Nadal said in a Thursday afternoon press conference in his native Mallorca. “That’s my idea, even that I can’t say 100 percent that’s going to be like this, because you never know what can happen, but my idea and my motivation is try to enjoy and try to say goodbye of all the tournaments that have been important for me in my tennis career.”

The French Open begins May 28 with coverage on NBC and Peacock.

Nadal, the record 14-time French Open champion, said he will stop playing tennis “for a while” due to his injury. He estimated it could be one and a half to four months.

“We were not able to find the solution to the problem that I had in Australia,” he said.

On Jan. 19, Nadal said the normal recovery time for the injury was six to eight weeks. But it has been prolonged for the 36-year-old.

This past Sunday, a French sports daily L’Equipe report quoted a tournament director saying that Nadal’s agent Carlos Costa said Nadal was in “a race against time” to be ready for the French Open, according to translations.

Nadal last missed the French Open in 2004, when he had a stress fracture in his left ankle as a 17-year-old who had already beaten Roger Federer.

In 2005, he made his French Open debut and won the title, the first of his men’s record-tying 22 Grand Slam singles crowns.

Nadal shares that record with Djokovic, a two-time French Open champion. The 35-year-old Serb can now break the tie in Paris without having to face Nadal, though top-ranked Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz may be the favorite.

Djokovic’s chances are better at July’s Wimbledon, where he has won seven times and will likely be an overwhelming favorite.

Nadal missed the other three majors on multiple occasions during an -- increasingly in recent years -- injury-riddled career.

He also endured physical anguish at the French Open, most notably withdrawing before his third-round match in 2016 with a left wrist injury. He is 112-3 in French Open matches.

Last year, he won the title with congenital, degenerative left foot pain that threatened his career. He received two pain-killing injections before each of his seven matches so that he played with no feeling in the foot.

Afterward, Nadal underwent a radio frequency injection on a foot nerve in an attempt to alleviate the problem and prolong his career. It worked. He reached last year’s Wimbledon semifinals before withdrawing from that event with an abdominal muscle tear.

He finished 2022 ranked No. 2 in the world behind Alcaraz. He has since fallen outside the top 10 for the first time since April 2005 due to being sidelined the last four months with the hip injury.

Nadal will drop out of the top 100 next month, the first time his ranking will be in the triple digits since April 2003.

After July’s Wimbledon, Nadal will be older than any previous Grand Slam singles champion.

Next year, Roland Garros will also host the Paris Olympic tennis competition. The two-time gold medalist Nadal said Thursday he hopes to take part.

While Nadal needs to be one of the four-highest ranked Spanish men after next year’s French Open for direct Olympic qualification in singles, he can, essentially, temporarily freeze his ranking in the top 20 if this injury causes him to miss at least six months.

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