‘One last time’: Rafael Nadal’s grim career update ahead of Madrid Open

‘One last time’: Rafael Nadal’s grim career update ahead of Madrid Open

Rafael Nadal has provided a rather bleak update on his future as he said he will only play at the upcoming French Open if he feels “capable enough to compete well”.

The 14-time Roland Garros champion conceded that if the action in Paris were to kick off today, he would not be able to participate but vowed to keep fighting for the chance to play at his most successful tournament one last time.

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“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next three weeks. I will keep fighting and doing the things I believe I have to do so I can try to play in Paris, and if I can play, I play, if I can’t, I can’t,” the former world number one told reporters at the Madrid Open.

“I will not play in Paris if I am the way I am now. If Paris were today, I wouldn’t take to the court. That’s the reality. I will only play in Paris if I feel capable enough to compete well.

“It won’t be the end of the world or the end of my career. I still got goals after Roland Garros, like the Olympics”.

Nadal returned to tennis in Brisbane in January after spending almost an entire year on the sidelines nursing a hip injury. But his comeback was short-lived as he sustained a muscle problem in Australia and has competed in just five matches so far this season.

The Spaniard kicked off his clay campaign in Barcelona last week, where he lost in the second round, and is set to face 16-year-old American Darwin Blanch in his Madrid opener on Thursday.

Nadal confirmed it will be his last time at the Madrid Open. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“I don’t think I’m ready to play at my 100 per cent but I’m prepared to go out and play tomorrow. It’s important for me to play one last time here in Madrid, for me it means a lot,” said the 37-year-old Nadal.

As he attempts to resume his ‘Last Dance’ in Madrid and say goodbye to one of his favourite tournaments on court, rather than on the sidelines, the 22-time major champion admits his farewell tour hasn’t been as enjoyable as he would have hoped.

“A few weeks ago, I didn’t know if I will be able to play again on the professional tour, so today I am playing,” he added.

“It’s not perfect, of course not perfect, but at least I am playing and I can enjoy again, especially in the few tournaments that are so emotional for me. I’m able to enjoy the fact that I can say probably goodbye on court.”

The curtain has almost fallen on Nadal. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)Source: AFP

Nadal says he’s hitting the ball well when he is able to be on court but “it’s about more body limitations. I went through a lot of things last year and a half, two years”.

“So body feelings are not enough good to feel myself playing with freedom enough in terms of body issues. That’s not allowing me to compete the way that I would like to compete.”

The Spaniard’s comments left the tennis world flat, although the writing has been on the wall the pending retirement isn’t sitting well with fans.

One user wrote: “The day Rafael Nadal retires will be the saddest day in tennis.”

A second wrote: “Rafael Nadal retiring without playing a final French Open would genuinely be a modern day tennis tragedy.”

A third added: “Rafa IS Roland Garros. This is heartbreaking.”

Fans are heartbroken over Rafa’s update. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)Source: AFP

Nadal was 16 when he played the event in the Spanish capital for the first time, in 2003, four years before Thursday’s opponent Blanch was born.

“I’m really excited, obviously a little bit nervous,” said Blanch, ranked at 1,028 in the world.

“But I’m just really happy to be playing against Rafa. I’m ready to go out and just enjoy every moment.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of people and they’re going to be against me.”

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