Rafael Nadal set for huge rankings drop as 21-year low expected

Rafael Nadal sights set on 2024 farewell tour after pulling out of French Open

Rafael Nadal could be poised to tumble down the ATP rankings to his lowest position in over two decades after withdrawing from this month’s French Open and announcing that he is planning to retire at the end of 2024. The 36-year-old has been struggling with a long-term hip injury since crashing out of the Australian Open in the second round and was hoping to return in time to compete at Roland Garros, although it has since become apparent that he is not yet ready to get back on the court.

Nadal is expected to take around four months away from the practice courts in order to rest and recover, meaning that he will also miss Wimbledon this summer and potentially the US Open as well. He is plotting a return to the ATP Tour at some point before the end of this year, although the possibility of any further setbacks would risk seeing him plummet to his lowest ranking in 21 years.

The Spaniard, who has not won a Grand Slam title since his French Open triumph last year, will have just 45 ranking points to his name if he does not play again before the year draws to a close. This would put him outside the world’s top 600 and there is every chance that he could be pushed down even further by the end of 2023, which would mark his lowest position since early 2002.

Nadal is currently ranked 14th after dropping outside the top 10 in March following his early Australian Open exit and looks set to keep tumbling down the order as a result of his injury struggles between now and the end of this year. It remains to be seen whether he will end up making his return in time to play at the US Open in August, with the likelihood of his presence at the tournament set to depend on how well he recovers from his latest injury blow.

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He has already insisted that he is not planning to stay on the ATP tour beyond the end of the 2024 campaign, with the clay-court veteran revealing earlier this week that he is starting to think about life away from tennis after seeing long-time rival Roger Federer call time on his career last winter.

“Too many days I have been stopping with too much pain,” Nadal told reporters at a press conference. “I don’t know when I will come back to the practice court, maybe two months, three, four. I am following my personal feelings for my body and personal happiness. My goal is to try to enjoy next year, which will probably be my last.”

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The news of Nadal’s withdrawal from the French Open led many of tennis’ leading figures to send him their best wishes in his recovery, including Australian legend Rod Laver who delivered his immediate reaction to the announcement by sending a heartfelt message to the Spanish icon on Twitter.

“You will be missed at Roland Garros this year, the King of Clay always,” wrote Laver. “Your outstanding physical power, fighting spirit and dedication to tennis is unrivalled in the modern era. Rest up, mate. I look forward to seeing you again, on court or off.”

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