Rafael Nadal gets real on Roger Federer's retirement & his planned 2024 retirement

Nadal candidly reflects on Federer's retirement and also honestly addresses his retirement plans.

by Dzevad Mesic
Rafael Nadal gets real on Roger Federer's retirement & his planned 2024 retirement
© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Rafael Nadal felt "a part of me left" after Roger Federer's retirement and suggested that he needs to see where his health and tennis are before making any definitive decisions on his career. 

After sustaining a muscle tear injury in Brisbane that sidelined him for two months, Nadal got back to action on Sunday when he took on Carlos Alcaraz in the Netflix Slam in Las Vegas. A day before the Netflix Slam, Nadal spoke with the media in Sin City, where to no one's surprise he was asked about his planned 2024 retirement and the prospect of continuing his career beyond this season. 

When asked about his own retirement, Nadal also reflected on witnessing Roger Federer's retirement and being a big part of the Swiss' farewell. After Federer teamed up with Nadal for a doubles match in what was the last match of his career, both the Swiss and Nadal burst into tears.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

“I got emotional because an important part of my professional life left. At the end of the day with Roger, we shared our most important moments in our tennis careers probably playing against each other," Nadal said in Las Vegas.

“First of all [I was] emotional because probably the most elegant player that I ever seen left the tour. Second, as I said before, a part of my life left with him, but that thought never pushed me to any retirement.

“What put me in a position to be close to retirement is my body more than anything else because in my mind is healthy in terms of passion for what I'm doing.”

Nadal: The main thing is to stay healthy, then we can analyze 

In his first two post-surgery matches in Brisbane, Nadal started with two straight-set wins and looked pretty well on the court. But then, Nadal suffered a setback after sustaining a muscle tear injury during a Brisbane quarterfinal loss to Jordan Thompson. After the match, Nadal flew to Melbourne for the Australian Open but withdrew from the tournament after getting the diagnosis. 

But now Nadal is healthy again, and after losing to Alcaraz in tight three sets in the Netflix Slam, he is set to play at the Indian Wells Masters. 

“The main thing for me is stay more or less healthy. If that happens, then we can analyze in what position in terms of level I am,” Nadal highlighted.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Entertainment - Chris Unger

After Indian Wells, Nadal is also scheduled to compete at the Miami Masters. After hopefully concluding his Indian Wells and Miami runs without any issues or setbacks, Nadal will aim to start his clay season in time. 

For now, Nadal highlights the main thing is to be able to practice and play tournaments consistently.

“I need at least to spend more time on the tour, at least to practice with the professional players and even if not playing many official matches, play practice matches,” Nadal added.

Nadal to give it all during the clay season

Even before Nadal's comeback started, the general belief was that the Spaniard would not be putting major expectations on himself early on but that he would rather try to build his form to be a contender during the clay season. 

But since Nadal sustained an injury early in the season, he hasn't played many matches so far. Considering his situation, getting at least a couple of matches during the Sunshine Double would be huge for Nadal. 

And when the clay season starts in April, that's when Nadal plans to go all in and see what he gets from that. 

"Whatever has to be left, leave it in the clay season, which may or may not be the last, I have not decided 100 percent. At the moment things are going that way," Nadal said.

"I'm not saying goodbye because then I'd say I'm not playing anymore. This is an important point and I don't want to say it because I'm not 100 percent clear about it. In the last two years, I haven't been able to play. Life is showing you the path."

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Meanwhile, Nadal learned on Tuesday that his first-round opponent in Indian Wells will be former world No. 3 Milos Raonic. For Nadal and Raonic, it will be their 11th meeting but also their first since the 2019 Laver Cup. Going into their Indian Wells match, Nadal owns an 8-2 head-to-head against Raonic.

Also, Nadal and Raonic met once in Indian Wells in the past - in 2015, the Canadian recovered from a set down to beat the Spaniard in a thriller quarterfinal 4-6 7-6 (10) 7-5.

Rafael Nadal Roger Federer