Nadal comments fuel creeping retirement talk

Tennis fans around the world are coming to a sobering realization that Rafael Nadal’s current run at Roland-Garros might very well be his last.

After overcoming Novak Djokovic in their quarter-final clash, the 21-time grand slam winner declined to dismiss talk that he may never be seen on the clay in Paris again.

Nadal’s momentous victory over his great rival fueled mounting speculation about his playing future, with the emotional Spaniard holding back tears during his on-court interview. He kept his cards close to his chest about returning to the tournament that has gifted him the most success in his career.

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“See you in two days (for the semi-final), that’s all I can say,” he replied when asked whether this year’s appearance at Roland-Garros will be his last.

Most tennis fans take Nadal’s retirement talk with a grain of salt. He’s been on the cusp of quitting for arguably the past three years with persistent injuries clouding his path forward.

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Fans were buoyed by his win at Melbourne Park this year, and another Grand Slam victory in France could be the trigger for the Spaniard to make this year’s version of the tournament his last following a successful comeback from a foot injury in 2021.

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After breaking the three-way tie with Roger Federer and Djokovic at 20 Grand Slams by capturing the Australian Open in January, when Djokovic was not able to play because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19, one could also argue he still has at least two years of quality play ahead of him if the body can hold up.

However, the 13-time winner gave a blunt assessment when asked about his problematic injury during his post-match press conference.

“I am old enough to not hide things or come here and say something I don’t believe,” Nadal said.

“I have what I have in the foot, so if we aren’t able to find an improvement or a small solution then it’s becoming super difficult for me.

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“Of course I’m going to keep fighting to find a solution but for the moment we haven’t.”

Nadal turns 36 on Friday, when he will face Roland-Garros third-seed Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals. In the lead up to his clash against Djokovic, Nadal echoed similar sentiments in regards to his health and how he keeps getting harder for him to produce his best because of his ailing body.

“I know my situation, and I accept it. I can’t complain much. I am in the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros,” he said.

“I am just enjoying the fact I am here for one more year. Two weeks and a half ago, I didn’t know if I would be able to be here. So just enjoying the fact that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don’t know if it’s going to be my last match here in Roland-Garros in my tennis career.

“That’s my situation now. Of course I went through a tough process again with my foot, so I don’t know what can happen in the near future with my career.”

Tennis pundits and former players believe this could be Nadal’s final ride in Paris, with Chris Evert expressing doubt over his future on the court, telling Eurosport, the tennis champion is “sounding weary” especially after his win over his uncle Toni’s new pupil Felix Auger – Aliassime.

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“The respect I have for him because he is 35 years old and he can keep getting psyched up every single day for these matches,” Evert said.

“I started burning out in my early 30s. When I woke up in the morning I didn’t have anything in me, so I don’t know where he gets this passion and fire in his belly from.

“I am sure with the injury, I don’t want to say he is falling apart, but you get a little more affected by the playing and training.

“It is going to happen, whether it is next year, two years, three years. I would not give him more than two or three years to play tennis.”

When asked about his relationship with the French people after so many years of success in the nation’s capital over an extended period of time, Nadal added more fuel to the fire.

“Well, the crowd has been amazing since the beginning of the tournament. I don’t know. I think probably they know that I not gonna be here for a lot more time.”

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