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Rafael Nadel Plays Last Match In Madrid Open: The End Of An Era?

Tuesday was an emotional day for tennis legend Rafael Nadel as he hints toward retiring. For his final game, he competed against Jiri Lehecka, accepting a 7-5 6-4 defeat.

The 2024 Madrid Open marked the end of an era as Rafael Nadal, a fixture in this French tournament, hinted at retirement. After months of speculation, the 36-year-old tennis icon has decided to step back from the sport that has defined his life for decades. He now sets his sights on personal goals, leaving fans and pundits to ponder the future of tennis without him.

“Today is an emotional day, of course. Today is an unforgettable day in terms of saying goodbye to Madrid. That is one of the places, or even probably the place where I received more love and support during all these years. But my career keeps going, and I have my personal goals that I have in the next couple of weeks, and I want to explore if I have any chance to achieve that."

The Spain-born athlete has been suffering from a hip injury for almost one and a half years. He had to take some time off the tennis court to heal, and according to Rafael, it affected his performance. “I never recovered too bad after tough matches, I think, even at 36 or 35,” said Nadal, who is now nearly 38. “Today is a completely different story. It’s not only about injuries. The first thing is injuries. The second thing is about… I never spent almost two years without playing tennis tournaments,” he told Tennis TV.

The present audience gave the five-time winner an on-the-court farewell while Nadel tried his best not to cry. He addressed his audience during the ceremony, “The gift you have given me is "perhaps more important than any Grand Slam.”

He told Tennis TV how he felt during the ceremony, “ I tried not to look at them because I didn’t want to cry," the 22-time Major winner told Tennis TV. "For me, even if it’s an emotional day, it’s not my last match. I’m not retiring yet, so saying goodbye from a very special place for me, and things need to keep going for me."

While the Manolo Santana Stadium may never see Rafael Nadal's return, his admirers may still have a chance to witness his prowess at the Rome Masters, barring any setbacks. Confirming the speculations, he expressed his intent to add another chapter to his storied career. 'I'm going to try to play in Rome. It's another very special tournament for me, you know? I think, I don't know, I won 10? Yeah, 10. So, yeah, a lot of emotions there too,' he shared.

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