That’s also one of the reasons why I came very early to the desert to practice and try to get ready. I have been working hard and practicing and you all know I took a test this weekend but I don’t find myself ready to play at the highest level at such an important event.

“It is not an easy decision, it’s a tough one as a matter of fact but I can’t lie to myself and lie to the thousands of fans. I will miss you all and I am sure the tournament will be a great success.”

Nadal’s withdrawal marks the latest in a well-documented, two-decade-long battle against injuries that have threatened several times to end his career prematurely.

Yet, while the former world No 1 has fought back with a warrior-like spirit each previous time to reclaim his place at the top of the game, often breaking his own pain barrier in the pursuit of major titles, this time it’s different. Nadal has admitted as much himself.

Whether Nadal continues beyond the European claycourt swing will likely depend on his health and how he fares at the French Open.

There is a fairytale scenario in which he lifts La Coupe des Mousquetaires (The Musketeers’ Cup) for a record-extending 15th time, dragging his creaking body over the line for one final triumph. What better place from which to glide off into the sunset than at Roland Garros, where Nadal has long cemented his status as the greatest player the tournament and venue has ever seen?

Alternatively, Nadal’s physical limitations could see him fall short of that fitting farewell, and aware that he no longer has the capac

ity to compete for Grand Slam trophies, opts to walk away from the sport anyway.

Only Nadal will know the right time to call it a day but it would seem unlikely that he would be willing to put his body through the rigours of another hard court swing in the autumn if he is unable to find a competitive level during his favoured clay season in the spring and early summer.

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