In a scintillating summer of sport, Rafael Nadal has already provided one of the highlights, slogging out a dazzling match against rival Novak Djokovic in the semi-final of this year’s French Open in Paris.
Unfortunately for Rafa, the clash ended in defeat and the 13-time Roland Garros champion didn’t make the final.
While most of us expected him to dust off the clay and start preparing for Wimbledon, the 35-year old made a shock announcement that he would be withdrawing from the British tournament, and would also be missing this year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
So what’s going on? Read on for everything you need to know.
Why is Rafael Nadal not playing at Wimbledon 2021?
World number three Nadal announced that he would not be competing at Wimbledon 2021 or Tokyo 2020 in order to “recuperate after a long clay-court season”.
“It’s never an easy decision but after listening to my body and discussing it with my team I understand that it is the right decision,” he said. “The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy; that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition.”
This year’s French Open was delayed to allow the tournament to take place under fewer coronavirus restrictions, meaning there was only a fortnight for the players to rest between Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
“The fact that there has only been two weeks between Roland Garros and Wimbledon didn’t make it easier on my body to recuperate after the always demanding clay-court season,” Nadal wrote on Twitter. “They have been two months of great effort and the decision I take is focused looking at the mid and long term.”
Meanwhile, Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya says the King of Clay is simply “exhausted”.
“The clay court tour was very tough, with a lot of physical and mental pressure,” he says. “Rafa finished exhausted. He is going to take a well-deserved rest. This is a marathon, a long-distance race in which hard decisions have to be made and he has considered that the best thing is to stop to come back full of strength.
“Rafa, two years ago, reached a point of great mental fatigue that was very difficult to get out of and now he has indicated that he was close to that again. He cannot afford [to play in] a Grand Slam if he is not at 100 per cent.”
Nadal’s decision follows Roger Federer’s choice to withdraw from this year’s French Open in order to rest his knee ahead of Wimbledon. You get the feeling that these top players, in the autumn of their careers, need to preserve their energy if they want to win more slams.
Will Rafael Nadal play at Wimbledon 2022?
Hopefully. Of course it’s very difficult to predict whether Nadal will be fit and injury-free, but all indications show that Rafa plans to play at Wimbledon next year. After all, he talks about his wish to “prolong” his career, and he’s thinking “mid and long term”. So how could he resist the lure of Centre Court at full capacity in 2022? Fingers crossed.
Does Rafael Nadal still hold the record for male grand slams?
Yes, currently Rafael Nadal and his long-time friend and on-court rival Roger Federer share the record for the total number of singles grand slams won by a male player, having each won 20 titles (Serena Williams, incidentally, has won 23). Novak Djokovic is just behind Fedal on 19 titles.
So if you’re wondering why none of them have retired yet, perhaps this is your answer: they’re all keen to hold the all-time record. Djokovic has a good chance of equalling the feat at SW19 this summer, while Federer hopes to step ahead of Rafa and reach 21 slams.
How many times has Rafael Nadal won Wimbledon?
Rafa has lifted the trophy on Centre Court twice. He first won in 2008 after a thrilling five setter against Roger Federer, a match deemed by many fans to be the greatest tennis final of all time. Nadal won again in 2010, this time in straight sets against Tomas Berdych.