Rafael Nadal won't play at the 2023 Roland Garros after announcing his decision to pull out a few days ago. The Spanish legend worked hard to get back in time but the hip injury proved too much to overcome. It will be the first time he won't play at the event in many years but he will be back next year if everything goes according to plan.
The last time Nadal didn't play at the event was back in 2004 when he was a teenager coming up. It was also the year when he won his maiden trophy and one year before he would win his maiden Roland Garros (2005).
The tennis landscape looked very different back then compared to right now. It's not a surprise as it was many years ago and at the time of Roland Garros in 2004, it was his good friend Roger Federer who sat at the top of the rankings.
Roddick was number two, Coria was number three, Ferrero was 4th, Moya 5th, a player named Agassi occupied number six with Schuettler, Nalbandian, Henman and Grosjean finishing off the top 10. None of the players ranked in the top 10 at the time still play tennis. None in the top 20 either with world number 25 Feliciano Lopez technically still part of the ATP Tour.
You need to scroll down to number 53 to find a player who still actively plays tennis every month. It was Fernando Verdasco who was ranked 4 spots lower than Nadal at that time (49). The Davis Cup that year was won by Spain with Nadal beating Roddick in four sets to give Spain a point in the 3-2 win over the US. It was an indoor clay court in Seville.
Federer won what today would be the ATP Finals by beating Hewitt in the finals. He also won three Masters that year (Indian Wells, Hamburg and Toronto). The others were won by Coria (Monte-Carlo), Moya (Rome), Agassi (Cincinnati) and Safin (Madrid, Paris).
When it comes to the Grand Slams, it was Federer who dominated. He won the Australian Open, US Open, and Wimbledon while Gaudio won the French Open. The next year it would be Nadal who would defeat Federer at Roland Garros, his first of many wins over his rival in Paris.
It was also a year in which Federer lost only four matches posting a 81-4 record overall losing only to Nadal, Nalbandian, Gasquet, and Safin all year. A lot has changed since then as Federer is not playing anymore, and a lot is yet to change this year too with Nadal's withdrawal.