Record 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal waved an emotional goodbye to Mexico tennis fans in what was "likely" his final appearance in the country. Nadal, 36, played against Casper Ruud in an exhibition match in Plaza de Toros Mexico.
On Friday, Nadal defeated Ruud 7-6 6-4. Nadal, a four-time Acapulco champion, confirmed that he does not plan to defend his Acapulco title in 2023 February. Considering that Nadal had another injury-plagued season in 2022 and that he won't be competing in Acapulco next year, there is a good chance he will never again play in Mexico as a pro.
Nadal: I'm not playing Acapulco and 2024 seems far away
"It will most likely be the last time I play in Mexico, Acapulco 2023 is not on my calendar and the 2024 season seems far away. Now is the time to enjoy this moment to the fullest and play in an emblematic setting, with many people and in a country where I have always felt loved.
It is an unforgettable feeling to live in such an environment in Mexico, I can only say thank you for the unconditional support, it is a country that has treated me like another Mexican. It's hard for me to say goodbye to you," Nadal said, as quoted on Sportskeeda.
Earlier this year, Nadal captured his fourth Acapulco title after beating Cameron Norrie in the final. Whenever Nadal competed in Mexico, he felt like at home. "When I'm in Mexico I don't feel like a stranger, I don't feel like a foreigner, in the end when you're in a country where we speak the same language and there are more things that unite us, when I arrive here I feel at home.
The reception of the people I feel is spectacular. It is a country where people know how to have fun, a happy country," Nadal said of Mexico.