The tennis world nervously awaits Rafael Nadal’s decision on Thursday on whether to defend his French Open title, as fears mount that the end is drawing near for the king of clay.
The record 14-time Roland Garros champion was desperately hoping to appear in Paris, but the indications are his hip injury will prevent him from defending his crown.
Nadal will hold a news conference at 4pm (1400 GMT) at his Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor, Mallorca, where he has been working to recover for the French Open, which he has not missed since his triumphant 2005 debut.
There was little optimism to be found, as he scratched warm-up events from his calendar like dominoes tumbling, after the problem he sustained in January at the Australian Open.
First, he skipped hard-court Masters events in the US, Indian Wells and Miami, but Nadal was still not ready for the clay season, missing Monte Carlo, Barcelona and then the Madrid Open.
The Italian Open presented a last chance for Nadal to prove his fitness ahead of Roland Garros, but the 36-year-old was forced to pull out, even though he said his new treatment programme was making some progress.
“He will miss the most important tournament of his career,” wrote Spanish sports website Relevo on Wednesday, with other Spanish outlets following suit.
Despite the reports, Nadal’s spokesman said his decision and the reasons for it would only be known once the player spoke on Thursday.
Tennis fans hoped Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who are tied for most Grand Slam titles each, would be able to battle for a record-extending 23rd at Roland Garros, but the odds of that look slim.
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