Carlos Alcaraz, a young Spanish compatriot, has spearheaded the shocked response to Rafael Nadal’s decision not to defend his French Open title.
Since suffering an injury in the Australian Open at the beginning of 2023, Nadal has been sidelined from the ATP Tour and has indicated that he will be out for a few more months at least.
The question of whether he would be able to defend the championship he has won on 14 occasions surfaced when he claimed last month that his recovery had been delayed owing to a misdiagnosis of his condition.
“Today I’m still in a position that I am not able to feel myself ready to compete at the standards that I need to be [at] to play a Roland-Garros,” Nadal said.
“I am not the guy that is going to be at Roland-Garros and just try to be there and put myself in a position that I don’t like to be [in].”
Alcaraz has enjoyed an incredible clay season so far and in the absence of Nadal, has been installed as the bookmakers’ favourite to claim the French Open title.
He won titles in the pair of clay events in Spain and has shown that tennis in the country remains strong.
In a social media message, Alcaraz wrote: “Lots of encouragement Rafa! Very painful and sad for everyone that you can’t be at Roland Garros or play more this year, but wishing that 2024 will be a great season for you and you can say goodbye as the great champion you are!”
French Open tournament director Amelie Mauresmo also lamented their greatest champion’s pending absence.
“I’m so disappointed for Rafael Nadal, who has had to withdraw from Roland-Garros, his favourite tournament,” Mauresmo said.
“I’m also disappointed for the spectators at the Porte d’Auteuil as well as for all tennis fans, who will not get to see this amazing champion in action this year.
“We will really miss seeing Rafael Nadal, whose destiny is closely linked with that of Roland-Garros after winning the tournament 14 times. Right now, my thoughts go out to him, as I can only imagine the pain and sadness he must be feeling after having to make such a hard decision. It’s heart-breaking.
“We hope that he will be able to recover quickly so that he can get back out onto the tennis courts, and we hope to see him at Roland-Garros next year.”
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