Rafael Nadal might have tipped how his career will end

Nadal expectedly announced he will skip Wimbledon.
Rafael Nadal at the French Open
Rafael Nadal at the French Open / Mateo Villalba/GettyImages

Rafael Nadal has never said officially that 2024 will be his final year playing professional tennis. He has implied that he might not play in 2025, but he has also said he cannot predict the future. Even after losing to Alexander Zverev in the first round of the French Open, the Spaniard did not say that he wouldn't return to play in 2025.

Still, after missing almost all of last year after injuring his hip at the Australian Open in January of 2023, he probably hoped his health would be a bit better this year. That has not been the case. Nadal has played inconsistently because of various ailments. When he has played, he has not been in good enough form to go deep in tournaments.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion is 7-5 this year with his best performance coming at the Madrid Masters at the end of April. Nadal won three matches before being bounced out in straight sets in the round of 16. That is not the level of success that Nadal wants.

Rafael Nadal seems on a course to end his career at the 2024 Summer Olympics

His best surface has never been on grass courts, either. He is the master of clay with a career win percentage of .907. On grass courts, his win percentage is .792. Still, good, but not great. Plus, of his 92 career titles, 63 have come on clay. As inconsistently as he has played this year and that he would rather play on clay, many expected him not to participate at Wimbledon.

This week, he officially withdrew from the grass-court major, announcing as much in a series of social media posts. Instead, he will play next at the clay-court Bastad Open in mid-July. This will serve as a lead-up to the Summer Olympics which begin in late July. The tennis part of the Olympics this year, coincidentally enough, will take place at Stade Roland Garros, the same site as the French Open.

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Nadal has been open about his love of playing for Spain at the Olympics. He won gold in singles at the 2008 games and won gold in doubles in 2016. This time, Nadal will play singles, but he will also play doubles with Carlos Alcaraz.

The handing of the proverbial baton of being the face of Spanish tennis could have no better moment than the 38-year-old Nadal playing with the 21-year-old Alcaraz. But Nadal likely could have no better ending than playing on the Paris clay for his country and winning a medal. All indications seem to point to Rafael Nadal's final event - the one he is focusing on preparing for - being the 2024 Summer Olympics.

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