Nadal’s protege gives insight into French Open aim as retirement plans emerge

Rafael Nadal’s good friend and protege has explained what he believes the Spaniard is planning for his farewell season in 2024. Casper Ruud is a product of the Rafa Nadal Academy and has formed a close bond with the 22-time Major champion. Following the news that 2024 would likely be Nadal’s final year on the tour, Ruud believes that he will be back at the French Open trying to win one last title.

Nadal officially pulled out from the French Open last week as he continues to battle an injury he picked up in January. Alongside the news of his withdrawal, the Spaniard said he will spend several months on the sidelines with a view of returning pain-free next year for what he believes will be his retirement lap of honour.

“My idea is to try and say goodbye to all the important tournaments for me in my career,” the former world No 1 said during a press conference at his Mallorcan academy. While Nadal isn’t committing to a planned schedule for his farewell just yet, the French Open will definitely be top of his list given his record in Paris.

And Nadal’s most recent victim at Roland Garros has admitted that he believes the 14-time champion will aim to be in a position where he can contend for the title next year. “It’s inevitable that the end is near but I believe that we will see Rafa at least one more time in Roland Garros, feeling ready and fit to have the goal to win the tournament,” Ruud told Eurosport.

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The world No 4 has formed a friendship with Nadal and grew up training at the Spaniard’s academy. He lost to the 36-year-old in last year’s French Open final and the pair embarked on an exhibition tour across South America over the off-season.

As one of the Spaniard’s friends on the tour, Ruud admitted that he knew Nadal well enough as he reacted to the news of his French Open withdrawal and eventual retirement plans. He continued: “In the end it’s the decision that is best for Rafa and the team has, I’m sure, tried all that they can to be ready for Roland Garros but couldn’t do it this year.

“But I think we will see Rafa again at Roland Garros. I know him good enough to know that he never gives up. As he said himself, I think he knows what he wants and I think he hopes for a better finish to his career.”

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A two-time Grand Slam finalist, the Norwegian also thought that Nadal would benefit from taking the rest of the season to prepare for his last hurrah. “I mean, he never gives up so I just think he needs a little time off now and I know that he’s been trying to push the clock and the time to be ready for Roland Garros. And this year he couldn’t do it but now he has a full year,” he noted.

And Ruud also looked at the consequences of Nadal’s withdrawal, admitting that it left the men’s draw wide open for the first time since the 14-time champion made a winning debut in 2005. “The tournament goes on, I think he said it himself. No player is bigger than the tournament,” the 24-year-old said.

“So it’s going to be a little more open and it’s the first time that he doesn’t play since 2004 so it brings maybe some extra motivation to other players. Sort of feel like it’s a little bit more open.”

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