Rafael Nadal’s retirement plans falling apart as he admits ‘my body won’t allow me to play’

Rafael Nadal hitting at his academy
Rafael Nadal has admitted these are 'very difficult moments' as he continues to plot a return to action - Rafael Nadal X

Rafael Nadal is supposed to be waving goodbye to his fans at all the great tennis venues this year. Unfortunately, his bashed-up, 37-year-old body is refusing to co-operate.

On Thursday, Nadal announced his withdrawal from next week’s Rolex Masters in Monte Carlo – a tournament he has won no fewer than 11 times. The decision means that he has still only played one ATP tournament all season.

April and May are meant to be Nadal’s strongest months of the year. They constitute the heart of the European clay-court swing, which he has dominated for the best part of two decades. Unsurprisingly, his announcement had a mournful tone.

“Hi all, these are very difficult moments for me, sporting wise,” Nadal wrote on the X website, formerly known as Twitter. “Unfortunately I have to tell you that I am not going to be playing in Monte Carlo. My body simply won’t allow me.

“And even if I am working hard & making the maximum effort every day with all the will to play and compete again at tournaments that have been very important for me, the truth is that I can’t play today. You have no idea how hard this is for me to not be able to play these events.

“The only thing I can do is to accept the situation and try to look at the immediate future keeping the excitement and will to play in order to give me a chance for things to get better.”

Nadal has already said that he expects this to be his last season on the circuit. Thus far, though, he has little to show for all the rehab except three matches at January’s Brisbane International.

During the last of those matches, against local hero Jordan Thompson, Nadal was extended to three sets and suffered what he described as a “micro-tear” in a hip muscle. The injury ruled him out of his intended tilt at the Australian Open.

More recently, Nadal resurfaced for a Netflix-sponsored exhibition match against his own heir apparent Carlos Alcaraz. During that knockabout, which took place in Las Vegas a month ago, Nadal served without bite and moved without his usual explosivity.

From the sidelines, it looked likely that he was carrying some sort of back problem, and indeed Nadal had barely arrived in Indian Wells before he pulled out of that event as well.

During a press conference held last May, Nadal described his intention as “to try to say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important to me, being competitive and enjoying”.

He also told Spanish reporters that “I don’t think I deserve to end like this. I’ve worked hard enough throughout my career for my end not to be in a press conference”.

But sport can be a cruel business. Sometimes it is not up to the player to decide how the curtain falls.

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