The sporting world has been reacting to news of Rafael Nadal skipping the French Open for the first time in his career. A 14-time champion at the tournament, Nadal was splashed across the front pages in France and his home of Spain as he revealed that 2024 would likely be his final year on the tour after skipping Roland Garros.
Nadal sent shockwaves through the tennis world on Thursday as he announced his withdrawal from the upcoming French Open. It marks the first time that the Spaniard has missed the event in its entirety since making his debut in 2005.
And there was even more significant news from Nadal’s press conference at his academy in Mallorca, as he revealed 2024 would most likely be his last year as a pro. The 22-time Grand Slam champion wanted to stop playing tennis for several months so he could come back pain-free for what sounded like a farewell tour.
The French press reacted to the loss of their ‘King of Clay’ with an emotional front cover on L’Equipe, showing Nadal sprawled out on Court Philippe Chatrier. “Une terre sans son roi,” it read, translating to “a land without its King”.
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French fans also pointed out that terre could mean clay, giving the headline an extra meaning with Nadal’s record on the surface. And the Spanish press followed suit, as the former world No 1 was plastered across the front of both sports and news pages.
An enlarged photo of Nadal’s face covered Marca, with the caption “Que hadas qui nos tienes para siempre”, translating literally to “What do you do here, you have us forever.” Meanwhile, AS quoted the Spaniard directly from his presser, writing: “I don’t deserve to end like this.”
Newspapers like ABC also led with the news of Nadal’s withdrawal and eventual retirement, writing: “Nadal, goodbye in his own way.” With all of the Spanish newspapers using photos of Nadal from his press conference, El Pais wrote: “Nadal will stop for a few months and prepare his retirement in 2024.”
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While fans have been left stunned by the news, Nadal himself said the French Open would still be a success without him as he accepted that his body would not allow him to fight for a 15th crown this year. “There’s going to be one Roland Garros champion, it’s not going to me, it’s going to be another one. And that’s life,” he said during the conference.
“The tournament is going to be for sure a big success without me. Players stay for a while and they leave, tournaments stay forever.”
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