Rafael Nadal announced Thursday his withdrawal for the Masters 1000 in Monte-Carlo, which begins Sunday and opens the season on clay, still not being physically ready.

“Unfortunately, I have to tell you that I am not going to play in Monte Carlo. Simply, my body does not allow me to do it,” the champion announced on social networks, accompanying his short text with a short video of him training – without much physical intensity, however – at his academy on the island of Majorca.

“And although I continue to work and give my best every day, hoping to be able to play the tournaments that meant so much to me, the reality is that to this day I cannot,” continues -he.

A statement heavy with implication because we certainly hear his disappointment at not being able to play the Monte-Carlo tournament, but we now perceive his fear of not being able to compete at Roland-Garros where he won fourteen of his 22 Grand Slam titles.

The hour of retirement having already begun to ring, Nadal seems to want to constrain his body one last time to allow him to bow out on his favorite stage of the Philippe-Chatrier court, on the occasion of the next Roland-Garros (May 20). -June 9)), or even the Paris Olympic Games (July 26-August 11).

Because since his extravagant coronation in 2022, where he played with an anesthetized foot to finally bring the record for Grand Slam titles won among men to 22 (Novak Djokovic has since surpassed it to bring it to 24), Nadal has gone from disappointment after disappointment. And this time, his desire to retire on his own terms and not under the inevitable dictates of his body, tormented by years and years of superhuman efforts, seems shaken.

“All I have to do is accept the situation and look to the immediate future while continuing to maintain hope and the desire to give myself a chance for things to improve,” he conceded on Thursday to conclude. his message. Since the 2022 French Open, he has not won a single tournament and has only appeared very sporadically on the courts.

In January 2023 he retired due to injury in the second round of the Australian Open and did not play again until the tournament in Brisbane last January. But here again, he injured a thigh in the quarter-finals and withdrew from the hard court tournaments where he was expected (Australian Open, Doha and Indian Wells where he considered himself “not ready” ). He had not planned to play in Miami at the end of March, but was enthusiastically expected in Monte Carlo.

“I am sad, for the fans who will not have the chance to see him, but especially for him because this Monte-Carlo tournament is really important for him,” the director of the Monegasque competition David told AFP. Massey. “I know he did everything to be ready for the tournament, so we wish him the best,” he added. For a long time, this first tournament of the season on clay served as a launching pad for Nadal towards Roland-Garros: between 2005 and 2018, he won the Masters 1000 eleven times and on nine occasions he then lifted the Grand Slam cup. on earth.

To date, his last public appearance on a court dates back to Sunday March 4 in Las Vegas, during an exhibition match against Carlos Alcaraz broadcast by Netflix. Observers had noted back discomfort which has clearly not gone away since. The king of the earth, who is so accustomed to celebrating his birthday on June 3 during Roland-Garros, may not blow out his 38 candles there this year.