Record 14-time winner Rafael Nadal pulled out of this month’s French Open because of a hip injury, and suggested next year would be his last on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour.
The 36-year-old Spaniard has not played since a second-round straight-sets defeat to American Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open in January, where he was hampered by his hip troubles.
He was initially expected to be out for six to eight weeks, but has dropped to 14th in the ATP rankings having failed to recover as quickly as had been hoped.
The “King of Clay” announced he will miss the only Grand Slam played on the surface for the first time since 2004, and planned to miss further months of action.
“The evolution of the injury I sustained in Australia has not gone as I would have liked,” Nadal said.
“I have lost goals along the way, and Roland Garros becomes impossible.
“At this moment, I won’t be able to be at Roland Garros.
“With what that tournament is for me, you can imagine how difficult it is.
“I have no intention of continuing to play for the next few months.”
That would appear to rule Nadal out of the next Grand Slam after the French Open – the grass-court Wimbledon, where he is a two-time winner, from July 3 to 16.
The hard-court US Open is scheduled for August 28 to September 10, with Nadal a four-time champion in Flushing Meadows.
He revealed his intention for next year to be the last of his illustrious career.
“I’ll look to be 100 per cent ready for next year, which I believe will be the last year of my professional career,” he said.
Switzerland’s Roger Federer was the first of men’s tennis’ “Big Three” to retire when he ended his career aged 41 last year.
Nadal is set to turn 37 on June 3 this year, with Serbia’s Novak Djokovic becoming 36 on Monday (May 22).
Since his Roland Garros debut in 2005, Nadal has won 14 of the 18 men’s singles titles, last year’s straight sets victory over Norway’s Casper Ruud taking him to what was a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam, although that has since been overtaken by Djokovic.
The Roland Garros venue is set to be used for tennis and wheelchair tennis at the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the boxing finals.
Nadal is two-time Olympic gold medallist having triumphed in the men’s singles at Beijing 2008 and doubles with Marc López at Rio 2016.
Injury difficulties meant he missed London 2012 and Tokyo 2020.