For 18 years Rafael Nadal has single-handedly dominated French Open. Irrespective of how he made it to Paris, he remained the top or rather the only favourite. His dominance led to the conversation turning to who could dethrone Nadal at Roland Garros. But for the first time since 2005, the year of his maiden French Open win, Nadal has withdrawn from the tournament owing to his ianbility to recover from the hip injury he incurred in Australian Open earlier this year, following which he has remained out of action. The absence led to a tennis legend stating that even Novak Djokovic cannot fill the “massive hole” left at Roland Garros by Nadal.
Following the injury, Nadal missed Indian Wells and Miami Open, but was expected for a clay-court return. But he prolonged his recovery period thereby missing Monte Carlo Masters, Barcelona Open, Italian Open and Madrid Open before he announced that he won’t be back for the remainder of the year, let alone the French Open.
While the absence leaves Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic as the heavy favourites for the tournament, Martina Navratilova believes that none can fill the void that Nadal’s absence has created.
“When somebody has dominated a tournament as much as Rafa has dominated this. For almost two decades, it has been Rafael Nadal against the field,” she told Tennis Channel. “Now everybody thinks they have a chance to win because Rafa’s not there. Even though he hasn’t been playing, it’s a massive, massive hole that nobody can fill.”
Djokovic also opened up on Nadal’s shock announcement and admitted that it made his thoughtful about his own future in the sport.
“Because of the rivalry that we have, I feel he was one of the most impactful people that I have had in my career,” he said. “He has been a great motivational factor for me to keep playing and keep competing, to keep pushing each other and who’s going to achieve more.
“So that news came as a shock to everybody. It made me think about my career. I’m not going to make any announcement today, but reflecting on it, I felt a little bit emotional about what he was saying.”
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