Rafael Nadal, 37, dismisses notion this is his last French Open: 'Don't assume that'

Rafael Nadal has missed each of the last four grand slams but is making his return to the French Open, where he plays his best.

The 37-year-old has dominated the clay his entire career, and 14 of his 22 grand slam wins have come at Roland Garros, including his most recent just two years ago.

Injuries hampered his 2023 season, and he was out for almost a full year, dropping out of the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time in nearly 20 years before finally returning to the Brisbane Invitational in December.

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Another injury, though, forced him to miss the Australian Open, and age may finally be catching up to Nadal.

It wasn’t that long ago he was dominating. His 2022 French Open victory was his second consecutive grand slam, as he had won the Australian Open for the second time earlier that year.

Nadal will turn 38 June 3, the day before the Open’s quarterfinals begin, and he’s hinted this year could be his last. But on Saturday, he kept the door open.

Players, fans and the media have been assuming it will be his farewell appearance at the French Open.

Asked whether that’s accurate, Nadal channeled Felix Unger.

“Don’t assume that. It’s a big, big chance that it’s going to be my last Roland Garros,” Nadal said. “But if I have to tell you it’s 100% my last Roland Garros? Sorry, but I will not. Because I cannot predict what’s going on.”

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In the first round, the Spaniard drew Alexander Zverev, the No. 4 player in the world who went toe-to-toe with Nadal in the 2022 French Open semifinal before a gruesome ankle injury forced Zverev to miss the rest of the season.

While Nadal has often intimated retirement is beckoning, he said Saturday he doesn’t “want to close, 100%, the door,” because he is enjoying playing tennis, he likes traveling with his wife and young son and, he added, “I was not able to explore yet the proper way how I will be able to play, being in, again, more or less healthy conditions, playing without limitation.”

He asked Saturday for a halt to questions about his future while he figures things out.

“Give me some time,” Nadal said. “Maybe in one month and a half, I’ll say, ‘OK, it’s enough. I can’t keep going.’ But today, in some way, I cannot guarantee that that’s going to be the last one.” 

Nadal and Zverev will take the court on Monday at 6 a.m. ET.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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