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Tennis superstar: French Open farewell: Nadal wants to fight again

Tennis superstar: French Open farewell: Nadal wants to fight again

The clay court king will most likely be playing one last time at his favorite tournament in Paris. How fit is the record winner? The title is unlikely, tears are guaranteed.

During a trip to the Dolomites with friend Roger Federer, the bitter cold and thick snow caused a lot of trouble for Mallorcan Rafael Nadal.

“I’m not as used to snow as Roger,” said Nadal with a pained smile: “I can’t feel my ears anymore.” Nevertheless, he listened intently to the words of his former tennis rival during a joint video interview for a French luxury brand (Louis Vuitton). He had an important message for Nadal before his last career stop on the farewell tour at the French Open.

“I’m sitting here as a happy man,” said Federer, who retired a year and a half ago. He looks back on his career with pride, “but I’m also happy that it’s over.” When the Swiss said goodbye, the two tennis icons were sitting on a players’ bench, holding hands and sobbing. Now they sat next to each other on a noble box in the mountains for the advertising shoot and reminisced before Nadal’s big “Au revoir” at the French Open.

Nadal will most likely serve for the very last time at the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, which begins on Sunday. Where he celebrated his greatest successes and set records, some of which may stand the test of time. A match record of 112:3 wins, not a single defeat in 14 finals in which he didn’t even have to go beyond 5 sets – no other player has left such an impact on Roland Garros as the Spanish clay court king. A steel statue has long stood in his honor on the site. “He is the ultimate role model,” enthused Germany’s tennis icon Boris Becker: “He has the heart of a lion.”

Nadal doesn’t just want applause, he wants victories

But past successes are of little help to Nadal at the moment. The injury-plagued Spaniard thought long and hard about whether he should even take part in his favourite tournament before his planned retirement after this season. Organisers and fans were all the happier about Nadal’s arrival in Paris last Monday. Every step of the crowd favourite is followed and publicised via social media.

Nadal responds to the attention with a smile and fulfills almost every autograph request from his fans. But he didn’t come just to get the well-deserved farewell applause. He will continue to “fight for the things I have fought for for the last 15 years, even if it seems impossible now.”

A 15th triumph is unlikely

In 2022 he last triumphed in his living room Court Philippe Chatrier and also benefited from Alexander Zverev’s serious foot injury in the semi-final duel. Last year Nadal was missing due to injury, this season he only returned in April after a thigh injury at the Australian Open. His sobering record on clay since then: three defeats in eight matches.

A 15th triumph at the French Open would be a big surprise – even if the respect of his opponents is still huge. “When Rafa steps onto a clay court,” said Russian world-class player Daniil Medvedev, “all his rivals are afraid.” And Serbian Novak Djokovic, who has long since replaced Nadal (22) as the record Grand Slam winner with 24 titles, emphasizes: “He is my biggest competitor of all.”

A tearful farewell is imminent

But Nadal is mainly struggling with his body; the many injuries and intense comebacks are endangering his health. It should therefore end in 2024. “My life and body have been sending me signals for a long time.” Nadal has dragged himself back onto the court because he wants to enjoy the game that he loves so much and that has given him so much one last time. And to say goodbye. There was a foretaste of the emotional farewell in Roland Garros at the last home appearance in Madrid three weeks ago, when his wife, mother and sister shed many tears in the stands.

Nadal himself doesn’t want to let the feelings of farewell get to him yet. It’s “not yet time to let out all the emotions I have inside me.” The Spaniard also wants to return to Paris for the Olympics in late summer.

When the time finally comes for him to retire, Federer will surely be at his side again.

Source: Stern

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