Rafael Nadal will not play at the French Open for the first time since 2004. The Spaniard has been practising on clay in a bid to be fit in time for the Grand Slam he has won 14 times in his career, but he has decided to withdraw just 10 days before the tournament starts due to a lack of match fitness. Nadal’s withdrawal gives Novak Djokovic the chance to go one Grand Slam ahead of his rival.
Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the French Open due to a lack of fitness and opened up about his likely plans for retirement next year.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion has not played since losing in the second round of the Australian Open in January. He called a press conference on Thursday afternoon where he confirmed he would not be competing at Roland-Garros for the first time since 2004 having failed to overcome his injury issues in time.
Nadal told reporters that he will rest for an unspecified period of time before potentially returning at the end of the year for the Davis Cup, ahead of a 2024 which he believes will be his last year on the tour.
“I was working as much as possible every single day for the last four months,” began Nadal.
“It has been very difficult months because we were not able to find the solution to the problem that I had in Australia.
“Today I’m still in a position that I am not able to feel myself ready to compete at the standards that I need to be [at] to play a Roland-Garros. I am not the guy that is going to be at Roland-Garros and just try to be there and put myself in a position that I don’t like to be [in].
Rafa,— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 18, 2023
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 courts.
Hoping to see you next year in Paris 🧡 pic.twitter.com/lTN3GExBFo
“My ambition is to try to enjoy next year, which will probably be my last year in professional competition. My motivation is to try to say goodbye to all the important tournaments.
“2024 will probably be my last year. I’m not going to set a return date before that. It could be reaching the Davis Cup at the end of 2023.”
Nadal had been seen practising on clay in a bid to be fit to defend his title, where he is a 14-time champion.
However, he has not been able to overcome his injury issues that he has had since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semi-finals last year.
After last year’s US Open, he only returned at the end of the season to play at the Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals.
He also played two matches at the United Cup at the start of this year before losing in the second round of the Australian Open to Mackenzie Mcdonald.
At the time, Nadal said he would miss up to eight weeks with a grade two iliopsoas tear, but he has not played competitively since.
Nadal’s withdrawal means he will drop out of the top 100 in the world rankings.
Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz are the favourites to win Roland-Garros this year. Djokovic has won the French Open twice in his career, while world No. 1 Alcaraz is looking to build on winning a second major at the US Open last summer.
Should Djokovic win in Paris on June 11, he will go one Grand Slam ahead of Nadal in the all-time singles titles record on 23.