Can Rafael Nadal Cap an Incredible Career with a Fifteenth French Open Victory?

Simon Wells
Authored by Simon Wells
Posted: Monday, April 29, 2024 - 14:55

The sands of time wait for no man, but even so, there’s always a sense of sadness when a sporting great retires.

The tennis world will bid a fond farewell to Rafael Nadal in 2024, with the Spaniard heavily hinting that this will be his final year as a professional on the ATP Tour.

It would be fitting if Nadal was able to win one last Grand Slam event – and there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house if he was able to do it at the French Open, where he has long been the most decorated champion in the tournament’s history.

King of Clay

Nadal has won 14 French Open titles during his career – for context, the next best record of the Open Era is Bjorn Bjorg’s six.

It’s no wonder that the Paris crowd has adopted the Spaniard as one of their own, which ensures he will get an incredible reception when the 2024 edition gets underway in May.

Those that bet on men’s Roland Garros consider Nadal to be no forlorn hope either. While some will back him for ‘romantic’ reasons, there are only three players above him in the tennis betting odds – Novak Djokovic, one of them at 11/4, does not have the best of records on clay courts either.

But not so Nadal, who has dominated Roland Garros for the best part of two decades and who once racked up an incredible 81-game winning streak on the surface.


The question now is whether the 37-year-old’s body can handle the rigours of playing two weeks of best-of-five set matches. He has suffered a catalogue of hip and knee injuries over the years, as well as battling the chronic Mueller-Weiss Syndrome in his left ankle.

Whether you believe in mind over matter or not, there’s every hope that the thrill of trying to win a fifteenth French Open title – and the passionate support of the Roland Garros crowd – will help Nadal to temporarily forget about his aches and pains.

Slow and Steady

Due to the nature of his injuries, Nadal has been forced to employ a heavily watered-down schedule so far in 2024.

He skipped almost the entirety of the hard court season, making a tentative return to action at the ATP Brisbane event in January.

Although Nadal played with his usual hard-hitting ferocity, it was evident that his movement around the court wasn’t quite where it needed to be, so a quarter-final defeat to Jordan Thompson perhaps wasn’t wholly unexpected.

There was radio silence thereafter from Nadal, but thankfully he has been able to resurface in time for his beloved clay court season in continental Europe.

He made his long-awaited return at ATP Barcelona in April, winning his opening match in straight sets before running into the much-improved Australian, Alex de Minaur, in the last 32.

The 25-year-old has already won a Tour-level title this season in Acapulco, so confidence is not in short supply in the De Minaur camp – it wasn’t a huge shock when he defeated Nadal in Barcelona then.

However, revenge is a dish best served cold, so when the pair would meet at the Madrid Open just one week later, Nadal had only one thing in his mind on home soil.

After taking a tight opening set tie break, Nadal began to look much more like his true self in the second – breaking De Minaur’s serve and taking the match 7-6, 6-3. This was the biggest validation of the Spaniard’s comeback so far: a straight sets victory over a top-ten ranked player.

Does Nadal have it in him to win one final edition of the French Open? Only time will tell, but his form is certainly improving. Whether he lifts the trophy or not, you can be sure that he will get a fitting Roland Garros send-off.

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