John McEnroe Sheds Light on Rafael Nadal's Dilemma - Roland Garros or End?



by JOVICA ILIC

John McEnroe Sheds Light on Rafael Nadal's Dilemma - Roland Garros or End?
© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

After not playing for a year, Rafael Nadal experienced another setback after only three matches in 2024. The Spaniard lost in the Brisbane quarter-final, enduring three and a half hours on the court but suffering a micro tear on a muscle around his troubled hip.

Nadal made an MRI in Melbourne, deciding to skip the Australian Open and return to Spain. John McEnroe shared his thoughts after Rafa's most recent setback. For the American, Roland Garros remains the key tournament in Nadal's return attempts.

McEnroe believes Rafa will retire if he fails to perform at his best in Paris. Nadal experienced a severe left hip injury at last year's Australian Open. The veteran missed the rest of the season, undergoing surgery in June and training well in the second part of the year.

Feeling good on the practice court, Rafa set his long-awaited return for Brisbane in the first week of 2024. Nadal drew Dominic Thiem in the first round and shined in his first match after 349 days. The Spaniard sealed the deal in straight sets, breaking the Austrian's resistance in the second set and making a winning return.

Rafael Nadal, Brisbane 2024© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafa looked sharp and focused in the second round against Jason Kubler, performing another comfortable win and reaching the quarter-final, feeling no issues with his body.

However, the quarter-final presented the first real test, and Nadal failed to pass it. Rafa met Jordan Thompson and experienced a tough 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 loss in three hours and 25 minutes, missing three match points in the second set and feeling the pain in the decider.

Nadal required a medical timeout for the area around his left hip and hit the exit door after losing serve once. Rafa lost serve two times from three chances offered to his rival and seized two out of eight opportunities on the return, creating none in the decider.

They set the course toward a marathon right from the start, with the opening set lasting 70 minutes. They served well early on, and Nadal held after deuce in the fifth game for 3-2.

John McEnroe linked Rafael Nadal's comeback success with Roland Garros.

Rafa had three game points at 3-3, wasting them and losing serve after netting a backhand.

The Spaniard stayed focused, pulling the break back in the next game with a forehand crosscourt winner. Thompson fired a forehand winner in the tenth game, locking the result at 5-5 and adding more excitement. Rafa survived a 40-40 score for the fourth straight time on his serve in the 11th game, holding and keeping the pressure on the other side.

The veteran stepped in on the return at 6-5, earning three set points and seizing the second to wrap up the opener 7-5. Nadal saved a break point at 1-1 in the second set and created three break chances in the next one, hoping to move in front.

Thompson denied them and produced a pivotal hold that kept him on the positive side. They served well in the upcoming games, and Jordan leveled the score at 4-4 with an ace in game eight. Rafa moved 5-4 ahead, forcing his rival to serve to stay in the match.

The battle could have been over, but Nadal wasted a match point after a volley error at the net, allowing the home favorite to keep fighting. Thompson served well in the 12th game, sending them into a tie break. Rafa fired two forehand winners for 3-0 before losing two points on his serve.

Nadal grabbed another mini-break at 3-3 and landed a service winner for 5-3, standing two points away from the finish line. However, the veteran missed a smash in the ninth point, squandering a chance to create three more match points.

Still, he had two following a volley winner in the tenth point. Nadal sprayed a forehand error on the second, which would cost him dearly. Thompson placed a volley winner for 7-6 and made a smash winner on a set point, introducing a decider after over two and a half hours.

Jordan was the favorite against the tired opponent, and he moved in front with a forehand drive-volley winner in the fourth game, forging a 3-1 advantage.

Rafael Nadal© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

The Aussie held at love in game five, cementing the lead and leaving the Spaniard behind.

The veteran could not endure such an effort, feeling the pain in his troubled hip and requiring a medical timeout. Nadal refused to surrender, like in Melbourne a year ago. He reduced the deficit with a hold in game six and served to stay in the match at 2-5.

Rafa landed a forehand winner to prolong the action before Jordan sealed the deal after an extended rally in the next one. The Spaniard knew his chances to compete in Melbourne were reduced, but he still traveled and hoped to practice ahead of the season's first Major.

Instead, the MRI showed a micro tear on his muscle, forcing him to withdraw from the Australian Open and travel home to Spain. "Rafa has always considered whether he would be ready for Roland Garros. If he does not, he will consider retirement.

Rafa has been amazing for the game, and we would love to see him competing as long as possible," John McEnroe said.

John Mcenroe Rafael Nadal Roland Garros