“I have no intention of continuing to play in the coming months. It is a decision that I have not made, it has been made by my body ”. With a firm voice, sitting in front of his family and friends, Rafael Nadal announced this Thursday that he is temporarily withdrawing from the tennis courts because he has not been able to recover from the injury to the iliopsoas muscle that connects the hip to the leg, which suffered on January 18 during the Australian Open and that has kept him away from the slopes ever since. The Spanish tennis player, winner of 22 Grand Slams, intends to make a full stop to his sports career to try to recover and face 2024 as the last year of his professional life. “I don’t think I deserve to end up like this, in a press conference, I want my ending to be different and I’m going to do my best to make it that way,” he said during the ceremony held at his academy in Manacor, 55 kilometers from Palma.
At four in the afternoon, the press room brought together dozens of journalists and photographers, some from remote places like Argentina. In the front row, his father Sebastià, his wife María Francisca Perelló, his sister Maribel and his trusted team, made up of his coach Carlos Moyà, his agent Carlos Costa and his physiotherapist Rafael Maymò. Barely four minutes later, Nadal entered the room, tanned, in white and in jeans. Sitting on a high chair, he announced what was intuited since the previous afternoon: he will not compete in Roland Garros, his fetish tournament, starting on the 28th. But he does not decide, he clarified, but his physique. “The injury has not evolved as we would have liked. Right now going there is impossible ”, he introduced with a serious tone and a natural speech.
He took a breath to continue clearing up the unknowns that hovered over his future: “I have no intention of continuing to play in the coming months, they have been years in which the results have been good, but my day-to-day life has been at a very low level”. The Spaniard, who will turn 37 on June 3 and has dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career, suffered one last one when he was playing in the second round of the Australian Open, where he dropped three sets against the American Mackenzie McDonald. From there, the athlete has kept the faith and work as always, but for each step forward he has fallen on a trap in the next; consequently, the period of sick leave skyrocketed —from between six and eight weeks set at the start to four real months— and reality leads him to a drastic change of plans.
In December, the pre-season season, Nadal imposed himself above all on playing. “I only focus on that, that is my goal,” he remarked upon his arrival in Australia. However, his body does not allow it. There is no continuity, but rather too many stumbles in the return process and hence the final halt, preamble, if possible, to one last dance. “Once I have reached this point and without being prepared I need to put an end to my sports career, I am not going to set a return date,” he said; “My intention is to rest my body and reach the end of the year and play the Davis Cup [del 21 al 26 de noviembre, en el Martín Carpena de Málaga], if the captain wants it. And try to face next year with the guarantees of what I think will be the last of my sports career, or at least with enough to be able to enjoy it. If I keep playing now, that won’t be possible.”
Nadal does not want to say goodbye through the trap door, but in his style, “competing and fighting, feeling like a good player,” he specified. From there, he is more than aware that the challenge that lies ahead is monumental, the most difficult yet. “What happens next year I don’t know. I can have illusions and intentions, but then things are determined by factors that one does not control. I don’t know if I will be able to be competitive to win a Grand Slam. I am not an irrational person. I am aware of the difficulty of the situation. But why not, I’m not a negative person either… I want to give myself the opportunity to compete again, ”he added during question time in an appearance that lasted for about 50 minutes.
listen and accept
Despite his desire to remain active, Nadal already began to glimpse the final stretch of his journey last year. He avoided the pain in his left foot, which has plagued him chronically since he was 18 years old, but not the persistent problems that worsened with the pause in the pandemic. The coronavirus marked a before and after for him, a thirty-year-old veteran. “For a body like mine, so punished, it is very harmful. The risk of injury is much greater, ”he explained on his day. Naturally, the tennis player has been understanding that his body does not resist more blows and that he prefers an ending that is as dignified as possible, while protecting his family. “There have been months of frustration, but there is a moment in which you have to put a stop to it; I need it, but I think those around me also”, indicated the Spaniard, who in 22 years of playing in the elite has collected 92 trophies.
Immersed in doubts and quicksand, the Spaniard – four games this season, 15 since he tore his abdominal muscle at Wimbledon on July 6 – reconstructed exactly what the internal litigation that led to this final decision was like. “The first thing you do is not speak, but you listen to yourself and you begin to understand what is happening. From a process of acceptance, from a process of honesty towards oneself, decisions are made and they are not dramatic. In the end, things happen, everything has a beginning and an end, ”he said, stressing that he wants an epilogue written by him, and not exclusively at the mercy of circumstances. The legendary Roger Federer, resigned to one last and fleeting dance in September, could not do it, but Nadal is going to try by all means.
In any case, sanity will prevail. It will only reappear as long as it obtains some minimum guarantees from the competitive point, and not to return “from a troupe”. Goodbye is coming, but it remains the same as always. “I would like to return knowing that I have the options of being able to start from scratch, even if it is a hard process, not to start subtracting,” he specified, making it clear that in the coming days he will not take up the racket or exercise to check if his body can regenerate. . He was grateful for all the good times he has experienced and insisted up to three times that when one is not happy professionally, “it has repercussions personally.” For this reason, he is already shaping up tomorrow with his wife and his son Rafael —born in October of last year—, with a good handful of incentives ahead: “Looking towards the future and the good things that in my day to day They help me enjoy life.”
For him, schedules, routines, calendars are over for the moment. Simply live, and then you’ll see. Nadal of flesh and blood, from the hero to the citizen without a cape: “A stage will end next year and a different one will begin, but it does not have to be less happy. You have to enjoy what comes.”
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