still injured, will Nadal see the “Federer” end of his career?

Rafael Nadal
CHRIS UNGER / AFP

Less than three months before Roland-Garros, the man with 22 Grand Slam titles has further postponed his return date. Enough to increase doubts about the Majorcan's ability to become a 100% tennis player again.

This time his back failed, leading to another withdrawal from Mallorca. Able to play a lucrative exhibition in Las Vegas against Alcaraz, the former world No. 1 was not yet visibly ready for a competitive match, which was scheduled to face Milos Raonic in the first round of Indian Wells on Thursday night. Every little physical defect now calls into question the Majorcan's ability to become a 100% tennis player again.

After missing most of the 2023 season and undergoing two hip operations, he played three matches in Brisbane in January but had to withdraw from the Australian Open with another muscle injury. Very encouraging in the game, before his body failed him again, the former world number one proved in Brisbane that he still has the ability – if his body cares – to return to the highest level. The problem is, if the heart and tennis are still there, the body has a hard time doing it. He also withdrew from the ATP 250 tournament in Doha in February. “It's a difficult decision, but I can't lie to myself and thousands of fans,” he said on social media.

He hoped to return to earth

Will he experience the end of his career like “Roger Federer”, his friend and great rival, who never returned to the courts during his last comeback? Before definitively retiring in 2022 during the Laver Cup, the Maestro tried to play in 2021 with the aim, above all, to shine at Wimbledon, his favorite tournament. After withdrawing before his Round of 16 appearance at Roland-Garros, the Basel native, with a loose knee, still reached the quarter-finals in London on one leg, before going 6-0 against Hubert Hurkacz. For now, the warrior Nadal would dream of playing with a weapon in his hand for his probably last Roland-Garros. But will they be able to? One thing is clear: the competition on hard courts has become too demanding for the tortured champion. And on land, his preferred surface, his body would be able to take the beating better.

In his career, seasoned with injuries, he rarely got one on the ocher. He hopes to be competitive for Monte Carlo (April 7-14), where he has won ten times. As he would like to continue with the Masters 1000 in Madrid (April 24 – May 5). With of course Roland-Garros in sight for his favorite two weeks (May 27 – June 9), probably the ultimate goal of his immense career, he who would also dream of competing in his last Olympics in Porte d'Auteuil (July 26 -11).August). His fans are hoping to see his unstoppable forehand lariats and his devilish cross backhands again on clay during the spring. An empty wish?

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