French Open 2023: Novak Djokovic ‘shock’ at Rafael Nadal retirement plan
Novak Djokovic says hearing long-time rival Rafael Nadal announce he intends to retire in 2024 has made him question how long he too will continue playing.
Djokovic, 36, could win his 23rd major title at the French Open, pulling him clear of the injured Nadal and taking the outright men’s singles record.
“It made me wonder about my career and how long I might play,” said the Serb.
“When he announced he is going to have his last season, I felt part of me is leaving with him too.”
Nadal has won a record 14 titles at Roland Garros but misses the clay-court Grand Slam for the first time in 19 years because of a long-term hip injury.
When announcing his withdrawal, the 36-year-old Spaniard said he would stop playing for the foreseeable future in an attempt to return for a planned farewell season in 2024.
Djokovic and Nadal have created one of the most enduring rivalries in tennis history, playing each other 59 times – a record on the ATP Tour – and sweeping up the sport’s most significant prizes between them.
Since the pair each levelled and overtook Roger Federer, who finished with 20 majors, they have been tussling to finish on top.
“Because of the rivalry that we have, I feel he was one of the most impactful people that I have had in my career,” said Djokovic, who equalled Nadal’s 22 majors by winning the Australian Open in January.
“He has been a great motivational factor for me to keep playing and keep competing, to keep pushing each other and who’s going to achieve more.
“So that news came as a shock to everybody.
“It made me think about my career. I’m not going to make any announcement today, but reflecting on it, I felt a little bit emotional about what he was saying.”
Djokovic has won two titles at Roland Garros, first in 2016 when Nadal withdrew before his third-round match, then again in 2021 when he beat Nadal in the semi-finals.
Seeded third behind Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev this year, Djokovic said he would not miss seeing his rival in the draw.
Djokovic also beat Nadal in the 2015 quarter-finals, going on to lose to Stan Wawrinka in the final, but has lost eight of their 10 meetings on the Paris clay.
“I don’t like seeing him in the draw of Roland Garros, to be honest,” he smiled.
“I have managed to beat him twice, but I had to leave my heart and my guts out on the court to achieve that.
“So I know how hard it is to play him anywhere, but especially here.
“But, as a tennis fan and someone that is part of the tennis ecosystem, you always want to win, to see the best tennis players in the world, the most famous tennis players in the world playing.” – bbc.com