Rafael Nadal’s most recent French Open opponent has claimed that it would have been “impossible” for him to recover in time for the tournament. The Spaniard officially withdrew from Roland Garros and announced that 2024 would likely be his final year on the tour in a press conference on Thursday. And Casper Ruud believes that it would have been unrealistic for Nadal to be physically ready.
Nadal sent shockwaves through the tennis world on Thursday as he pulled out of the French Open for the first time in his career. A 14-time champion at the tournament with just three match losses in Paris, he said his body wasn’t allowing him to play.
During the press conference at his academy in Mallorca, the 36-year-old also said he would take a few months away from tennis with the view of being fit in 2024 for what he thought would be a farewell tour. One of Nadal’s young rivals and good friends on the tour has now weighed in, and said the Spaniard was “chasing something impossible” when he tried to be fit for the French.
“Obviously was a lot of speculation whether he was going to play Roland Garros or not, I guess,” Ruud – who lost to Nadal in last year’s French Open final – said on Saturday. “I’m sure he tried the best that he could to be ready and fit. He’s obviously always going to be the favourite if he plays.”
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The 24-year-old spent some time with Nadal over the off-season as the pair embarked on an exhibition tour across South America. And Ruud admitted that he thought the ‘King of Clay’ had taken on too big a task by trying to come back for Roland Garros.
“I think he was sort of chasing something that was impossible physically,” the world No 4 continued. “I think he had a lot of pain and sort of decided that I gave all this effort for sort of nothing and not be ready for Roland Garros.”
But Ruud backed Nadal’s decision to take some time away in hopes of a pain-free goodbye in 2024. And he looked to Roger Federer’s last dance at the Laver Cup as he shared his wish for Nadal to end his career on his terms.
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Ruud added: “I think it’s going to be smart decision to take some months off, like he said. Next year might be the last. Who knows. I hope that he can have a nice finish and end to his career. I’m sure he hopes that, as well.
“I mean, it’s inevitable that a player, no matter how good and great you are, will at some point end their career. Roger did it last year. Might look like Rafa is one of the next sort of legends to do so.
“I think that we will see him around in a year or so here maybe in Rome, Roland Garros maybe. Who knows. I think that’s his goal and wish, and I hope that he can fulfill those goals and wishes.”
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