Rafael Nadal is determined to end his career on his own terms. The Spaniard reflected on his outlook Thursday after announcing his withdrawal from Roland Garros.
“I don’t like the word but I feel strong enough to say it: I don’t think I deserve to end like this,” Nadal said in Spanish. “I’ve worked hard enough throughout my career for my end not to be in a press conference.”
Nadal explained that his plan is to take time off. Although he is unsure when he will return, the Spaniard added the 2024 season will “probably” be his last.
“After that you never know what can happen,” Nadal said. “I’m going to try to make my last year not just a party, I’m going to try to compete at the highest level, give myself the option to try to compete and win tournaments on this clay tour. The reality is that we’ll have to wait for that.”
The 22-time major champion and former World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings did not rush to his decision and instead listened to what his body told him.
“The first thing you do is not talk, you listen to yourself and you understand what is happening. You have to accept and go through a process of honesty with yourself,” Nadal said. “But decisions are not dramatic, everything has a beginning and an end, unfortunately. I am just one more of all these endings of all the people who have been able to stand out in any field of life.”
The reason Nadal is taking time off now is so that he can give himself the best chance for a proper final run.
“My idea is that this last effort is worth leaving everything so that the last year will be something special,” Nadal said. “My tennis and above all my body will tell me what will happen.”
When Nadal retires, he said it will be the end of a stage of his life he has “been very happy with”.
“From then on I will start another stage, which will be different. But it doesn’t have to be any less happy,” Nadal said. “I have to take things naturally. I have plans for the next few months that I haven’t made in the last 20 years.”
World No. 3 Daniil Medvedev was asked about the Nadal news after his quarter-final win in Rome. Medvedev said: “Rafa on clay in general, but especially in Roland Garros, is just unreal. I honestly don’t know how this is possible because me, I feel like I’m a good tennis player, but you can always have a bad day, or your opponent has a very good day. Like in Madrid, I felt like I was not playing that bad against [Aslan] Karatsev. But I lost, and after the match I was like, ‘He played well. Okay, that’s it.’
“Rafa didn’t have these matches in Roland Garros, except maybe the match with Soderling where Robin played the match of his life and managed to win. This is unbelievable. I think in tennis, at least for the moment, there no comparison.”