Winner of 22 Grand Slam titles, Rafael Nadal witnessed an early exit from the 2023 Australian Open, suffering a straight sets loss to Mackenzie MacDonald in the second round. Nadal even struggled to complete the match, suffering a groin problem in the second set. The Spaniard even took a medical timeout before returning to the court but was unable to play at the tempo he usually does. Giving a scathing assessment of Nadal’s career stage, legend Boris Becker said his “days are numbered”.
Baker called Nadal “one of the most important athletes of the last 25 years” but felt his Australian Open 2nd round exit was his first step towards retirement.
“We’ve been talking about a generational change for a long time, and then Nadal came in last year and won not only in Melbourne but also in Paris,” Baker said. Eurosport German Matchball Becker Show.
“The question was: Will he play until he’s 40? I don’t think so. Yesterday was already the first step in his retirement.
“An injury like that is difficult, and at this age, it takes longer to get back into shape. I hope and pray that he recovers soon and we see him fresh again in Paris at the end, but I think his days are numbered, Baker added.
Congratulating Nadal, Baker said the 36-year-old had changed the way the game was understood. Although retirement seems close, Baker has no doubts that Nadal will pick up a racket again.
“He’s not just a tennis legend, he’s a sports legend. He’s one of the most important athletes of the last 25 years. He changed tennis and made it more popular in his home country of Spain.
“He can be president if he wants to. I think there will be a big gap if Rafa doesn’t play anymore, but I think he will pick up the racket again.
Nadal admitted that he will be away for a few weeks to focus on his health and fitness. Boris expects the veteran star to bounce back, especially for the French Open which will be his ‘priority’.
“The clay court season will be his priority. If he is fit, he is still my favorite for the French Open, but Rafael Nadal also grows up eventually.”
“We’ve talked about generational change for a long time — we’re seeing it firsthand right now,” he said.
“Roger Federer is not playing anymore and there are many question marks behind Nadal now.
“I think he’ll want to play again in Paris. But I don’t know if he’ll play against Australia again. So he should be celebrated while he’s there.”
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