Rafael Nadal's Joy on Court: Olympic Games Next, Retirement Not Yet

Rafael Nadal feels good on the court after many setbacks

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal's Joy on Court: Olympic Games Next, Retirement Not Yet
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The 22-time Major champion Rafael Nadal is enjoying playing tennis again! One of the greatest players of all time managed to overcome the physical issues that ruined his progress and sent him out of the top-600. Rafa is looking forward to the Olympic Games in Paris, skipping Wimbledon and staying on his beloved clay ahead of the most important event of the season.

Nadal will try to win his third Olympic medal at Roland Garros next month, the first since 2016. After that, the Spaniard will plan his next steps, based on how his body would feel. Most importantly, the legend does not think about retirement, hoping to extend his career and compete in 2025.

Rafa experienced a severe hip injury at last year's Australian Open, skipping the rest of the season and playing only seven tournaments in the previous year and a half! The Spaniard embraced a recovery course from outside the top-600, eager to end his career on his terms.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Mason / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The veteran made a long-awaited return in Brisbane in the first week of 2024, playing well against Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler en route to the quarter-final.

Rafa experienced a massive blow against Jordan Thompson, squandering three match points and falling after three and a half hours. Nadal required a medical timeout in the third set, feeling the pain around his troubled hip and withdrawing from the Australian Open.

The Spaniard felt the pain in his abdominal muscle while training in February. Not risking anything, he missed Doha, Indian Wells and Monte Carlo, training at home before embracing the rest of the clay swing. Rafa entered his first event in 100 days in Barcelona, losing to Alex de Minaur in the second round and not feeling well physically.

The home favorite performed better at the Madrid Masters. He claimed three wins for the first time since the 2022 US Open and reached the last 16.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal is eager to extend his tennis journey.

Nadal fell to Jiri Lehecka in straight sets despite a solid endeavor, missing a chance to celebrate his 100th Masters 1000 final.

Rafa could not achieve that in Rome either, despite many glorious moments at Foro Italico in the past. The Spaniard prevailed over Zizou Bergs before experiencing a tough 6-1, 6-3 loss to Hubert Hurkacz in an hour and 33 minutes.

Nadal suffered one of his most difficult defeats on the beloved surface, struggling on serve and return and hitting the exit door. Hubert served at 54%, which did not bother him. He denied all seven break points, five in the opening games of the encounter, maintaining the pressure on the other side.

Nadal dropped almost half of the points in his games and suffered four breaks. Hurkacz tamed his strokes nicely and earned the win in the shortest exchanges up to four strokes. Rafa made a reliable start and created five break points in the first game of the encounter.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Hubert saved them and landed a service winner on a game point, avoiding an early setback. Nadal saved two break points in the second game and locked them at 1-1 after 27 minutes, preparing everything for a marathon!

The Pole decided to speed things up, holding at love in the third game and breaking the Spaniard in the next one for 3-1. Rafa suffered another loss in the sixth game, falling further behind and allowing Hubert to serve for the set.

Hurkacz faced two break points in the seventh game. He saved them and forced Nadal's mistake for 6-1 after 49 minutes. The Pole used that boost and served well in the second set. Hubert grabbed a break in the third game and held at love for 3-1.

They served well in the next four games before the Pole clinched another break at 5-3, earning a notable win and sending the Spaniard packing. Rafa wished for a better run at Roland Garros, but the tennis gods were not by his side!

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The 14-time champion faced world no. 4 and the Rome Masters winner Alexander Zverev in the first round. The veteran fought well in a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 loss in three hours and five minutes, experiencing his earliest Roland Garros defeat.

Alexander served at 77% and made the difference with his first serve. Zverev took charge on the return and turned 45% of the points into six breaks from 18 chances. Rafa earned 11 break points and converted two, remaining competitive in the second set but blowing his opportunities.

The better-ranked player fired 44 winners and 30 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and building the lead in the shortest and most extended rallies. Zverev claimed the opening set with breaks in games one and nine. Nadal responded in the second set, leading 5-3 and serving for it in game ten.

Alexander kept his composure and broke back at love, extending the set and gaining a boost. The German prevailed in the tie break, moving two sets to love in front and closer to the finish line. They offered each other 12 break points in the opening five games of the third set.

They traded early breaks before Zverev clinched two more from 3-3, moving over the top and ousting the legend. "I'm enjoying on the court again. I'm having fun and want to see if my physique remains at this level or if it will go wrong again. I will make my next moves after the Olympic Games," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Olympic Games