The first name that tennis fans think about when they hear the word clay is surely Rafael Nadal. In the history of tennis, no one ever dominated one surface more than the 36-year-old Spaniard dominated the red dirt.
The majority of his 92 career titles on the ATP Tour came on the red clay and he's won the Roland Garros record 14 times. Because of that and many other reasons, it was unthinkable for tennis fans that Nadal would miss the tournament in 2023.
However, with the withdrawal from the 2023 Italian Open, more and more voices started suggesting, that Nadal may miss the Roland Garros. However, the tennis world was stunned when the Spaniard announced that he will hold a press conference at his academy in Mallorca, with many reports suggesting that it will be to announce his withdrawal from the tournament.
Unfortunately for the tennis fans and fans of Rafael Nadal, the news was confirmed by the Spaniard himself as he announced that he will not be competing at the 2023 Roland Garros, resulting in his first absence in the French capital since 2004.
Over the past 18 years, Nadal won the Roland Garros astonishing 14 times, with a win-loss record of 112-3. In the last six years, he won the tournament five times and even though he missed the full clay-court season, he was considered as one of the tournament favourites.
Right now, it's not clear what Nadal plans to do next in 2023 as his main goal was surely the Roland Garros. With the 36-year-old missing the most important tournament of his career, the chances of him returning anytime soon are probably really small.
With 22 Grand Slam titles to his name, Nadal certainly doesn't target any ATP 250 or 500 tournaments as his main goal for this season was clear. Almost certainly, he won't compete at Wimbledon, with a chance of his return maybe happening before the US Open.
"I'm not gonna be able to play at Roland Garros. I was working as much as possible during the past 4 months, but we weren't able to find a solution to the problem that I had in Australia. I'm not the guy that will try to be at Roland Garros just to be there and put myself in a position that I don't like to be."
"The real situation is that I was not able to enjoy my work since after the pandemic. My body was not able to hold the practices in a good way, so I was not able to enjoy the practices and the competition, because there were too many problems, having to stop too many times, and too many times going to practice with pain."
"So my decision is to stop, I don't know when I'm going to return to the practice court. Maybe two months, maybe three months, maybe four months. I don't know. I'm not the guy who likes to predict the future, I'm just following my personal feelings."
"I don't want to put myself in a position to say one thing and then do another. But my ambition is to stop to give myself an opportunity to enjoy next year, which will be probably my last year on a professional tour."
"But my idea and my motivation is try to enjoy and try to say goodbye to all tennis tournaments that have been important to my tennis career during that year. And just try to be competitive."