Rafael Nadal seemingly drops biggest hint that he may change retirement decision

Nadal confirms his retirement decision is not set in stone and that he could still play beyond 2024.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Rafael Nadal seemingly drops biggest hint that he may change retirement decision
© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Rafael Nadal has seemingly dropped one of the biggest hints yet that he could play beyond 2024 as the Spanish tennis icon reveals his feelings in the last few weeks have made him want to "explore more" but underlines that nothing is certain at this moment because there are still some things that he needs to test and see.

When Nadal launched his post-hip surgery comeback in January, he said he would need to stay healthy and be competitive to reconsider his retirement decision. While Nadal's comeback got off to a rough start and he injured himself early, he was able to return to action in April and play in four clay tournaments without injuring himself or suffering any major setbacks. 

Although Nadal didn't win any titles in those four clay tournaments played, just being able to play and being competitive made him feel better - which can be considered a success. And now, Nadal - who turned 38 on June 3rd - wants to see how long can his body hold up and if he will be able to continue playing without sustaining an injury. 

"My feelings in recent weeks have made me want to explore a little more, to want to see what can happen. I am rediscovering the pleasure of playing tennis, of enjoying myself. I want to give myself the opportunity to see if my physique remains at this level or if this is a passing moment and everything goes wrong again," Nadal told L'Equipe.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

Nadal hints the Olympics could be the deciding moment 

At his beloved French Open, Nadal had brutal luck with the draw after drawing Alexander Zverev. Against Zverev, Nadal definitely looked competitive and he was even up by a break in the second and third sets before the German went on to complete a 6-3 7-6 (5) 6-3 win. While losing in the French Open first round for the first time was disappointing for Zverev, he looked solid on the court, and most importantly, didn't leave the court with any physical issues. 

In just over a month, Nadal will return to the clay courts of Roland Garros for the Paris Olympics, which start on July 26th. Nadal, who continued to practice on clay after the French Open, is already preparing for the Olympics and hints the upcoming Olympic Games could decide whether or not he continues his career. 

So if Nadal does well at the Paris Olympics and leaves the event healthy, the chances of seeing him resume his career may drastically increase.

"I want to see how I feel after the Olympic Games, then we will see what happens, what decisions I make. I will always do it with great serenity, with the satisfaction of having always given my best. When I have to make a decision, I will make it without problems. I always said that this would be my last year, but I can't be sure because at the end of the day you never know what can happen in the future," Nadal explained.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal © Getty Images Sport - Clive Mason
 

Nadal set to skip Wimbledon and instead play a clay tournament before the Olympics

After losing in the French Open first round, Nadal indicated in his press conference that he would not play at all during the grass season. On Thursday, the 38-year-old Spaniard confirmed that everyone had been suspecting - he was out of Wimbledon. 

Instead, Nadal signed up for an ATP 250 tournament in Bastad, which starts on July 15th. 

"During my post match press conference at Roland Garros I was asked about my summer calendar and since then I have been practicing on clay. It was announced yesterday that I will play at the summer Olympics in Paris, my last Olympics," Nadal announced on X on Thursday. 

"With this goal, we believe that the best for my body is not to change surface and keep playing on clay until then. It’s for this reason that I will miss playing at the Championships this year at Wimbledon. I am saddened not to be able to live this year the great atmosphere of that amazing event that will always be in my heart, and be with all the British fans that always gave me great support. I will miss you all.

"In order to prepare for the Olympic Games, I will play the tournament in Bastad, Sweden. A tournament that I played earlier in my career and where I had a great time both on and off the court. Looking forward to seeing you all there."

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal © Getty Images Sport - Clive Mason
 

In Bastad, Nadal played three times very early in his career. After picking up back-to-back quarterfinals exits at the tournament in 2003 and 2004, Nadal won the Bastad title in 2005 and he hasn't played at the tournament since.

Rafael Nadal
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