Rafa Nadal has prompted some bizarre backlash from Novak Djokovic fans amid a candid interview where he claimed next year's Roland Garros or the Paris 2024 Olympics will most likely be his retirement event. Nadal announced ahead of the French Open this year that 2024 would most likely be his last on the tour after withdrawing from three of the four grand slam events this year due to injury.
The Spaniard has not played since the Australian Open, which saw him struggle with a hip injury that has ruled him out for the season. Nadal withdrew from his Roland Garros, which he has won 14 times, and claimed next year would most likely be his last in tennis.
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The 36-year-old has remained rather quiet since stepping away from competition and reports around when he would return has been swirling. And in a long interview with Spanish broadcaster MovieStar+, Nadal admitted that he was looking at the Australian Open and Roland Garros as his two farewell grand slams.
Nadal also has his sights set on the Paris Olympics, which would be played at Roland Garros. However, he admitted if he exceeded his expectations at Roland Garros it could be his last event.
“My dream is to play again, to be competitive again, not to win at Roland-Garros or in Australia,” said Nadal. “At the time I am in my life is very far away (from challenging for major titles). I am not saying it is impossible because these things change very quickly.
“Yes, I can play but I am not in a position to win at Roland-Garros because maybe I would like a farewell tour. These are answers that I cannot give now," he added.
Rafa Nadal causes uproar among Novak Djokovic fans
However, the most controversial moment of the interview was when Nadal commented on the grand slam title race. Djokovic just won his 24th grand slam title, equalling Margaret Court's record and taking him two clear of Nadal.
With Nadal only looking to play a possible two more grand slams - unless he takes part at Wimbledon - it appears impossible for him to take over Djokovic. The Spaniard has all but conceded the race, but also took a different outlook to the record.
Nadal admitted that injuries have certainly hampered his ability to compete with Djokovic in the long-run, but also appeared to claim Djokovic was more focused on holding the record.
“I am not frustrated for a simple reason – within my possibilities, I have done everything to make things as good as possible,” Nadal said.
“Yes, you can live frustrated with 22 Grand Slams, for example, Novak lives it in a more intense way. For him, it would have been a greater frustration not to achieve it. Perhaps that is why he achieved it.”
While Nadal was acknowledging Djokovic had achieved the feat of becoming the man with the most grand slams ever, fans of the World No.1 were not impressed. Many felt Nadal's comments did not hand Djokovic enough praise having created history.
Others dismissed this criticism and said Nadal was being respectful of Djokovic's feat. Nadal also mentioned he would be messaging Djokovic to congratulate him on 24 grand slams when the dust settles on his achievement.
What a thing to say after your rival wins a grand slam! Very poor from Nadal.
When Nadal won AO’22, Djokovic was so classy in congratulating him, inspite of the terrible ordeal he had to go through in Australia. https://t.co/1sD5KxHfLN
— Shobhit (@NovakGOATovic) September 18, 2023
Listened to the interview, tone is key. I'm a Nole fan, but Rafa was just respectful for the achievement. Every player would love to have the records, it's the nature of sports to be competitive. But yes, they were more important to Novak and it's probably why he achieved them.
— Mihai C. (@coChioru) September 18, 2023
— Science&politics (@Peacedividend1) September 19, 2023
How people are taking this negatively is beyond me
— Sachit Srivastava (@SrivastavaSach) September 18, 2023
More context needed but I’m not buying this. Rafa has stated numerous times that he also plays to win the Slams first and foremost. So to intimate that Djoker is more intense when it comes to winning Slams is a little disingenuous. Just give Djoker his due. He’s been lights out.
— Marco (@Mrey55) September 18, 2023
This week, Djokovic has announced he won't be playing the Shanghai Masters next month and will take a break from the ATP Tour for a number of weeks. The 36-year-old linked up with the Serbian team at the Davis Cup to help them advance to the finals in November.
However, the champion has announced he will take a break for the ATP Finals in Turin later this year.
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