Will the retiring Rafael Nadal play in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

Did you know? Nadal, who will retire at the end of 2024 season, has won both the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and Abu Dhabi Mubadala Tennis titles


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Rafael Nadal of Spain suffered an injury at the Australian Open in January. — AP
Rafael Nadal of Spain suffered an injury at the Australian Open in January. — AP

Published: Fri 19 May 2023, 2:36 AM

Ever since he suffered a hip injury at the Australian Open in January, fans of Rafael Nadal have held their collective breath, wondering what life will be like should the 22-time Grand Slam winner decide to call time on his career.

But the legendary Spaniard, who together with Roger Federer held the mantle of headline-grabber for close to two decades, hand enthralled audiences the world over with his unique bravado, has put their minds at rest.

Nadal, 36, disclosed at a press conference in Mallorca, Spain on Thursday that 2024 will be his final year on the professional tour.

While this is bad news for die-hard Nadal fans, it also means that his devotees in the UAE and Middle East are likely to see him in action one last time before he rides into the sunset.

The Spaniard was set to play at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships for the first time in 15 years during the February 27-March 4 tournament, before the abdomen injury he suffered at the Australian Open ruled him out for eight weeks.

"I am not the guy who likes to predict a lot (about) the future so I'm just following my personal feelings and just following what I really believe is the right thing to do for my body and for my personal happiness," he said on Thursday.

"So that's the thing. I don't want to put myself in a position to say one thing and then do another thing but my goal, or my ambition, is to try to stop to give myself an opportunity to enjoy next year, that's probably going to be my last year on the professional tour."

From his earliest years as a teenager and fledgling player on the talent-rich ATP world tennis tour Nadal has never failed to excite fans with his gladiatorial style of play using different shots and techniques to overpower even the most talented rivals.

More than anything it is has motivation that has endeared himself to the millions of Nadal fans, many of them who saw him as a 19-year-old prodigy triumph over the top-seeded Roger Federer 2-6 6-4 6-4 at the Aviation Club Tennis Stadium in 2006.

It is conceivable that some of those fans, including Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, who was instrumental in bringing a teenage Nadal to Dubai, will be relishing the prospect of watching him play in the Emirates in his farewell year in 2024.

"My idea and my motivation is try to enjoy and try to say goodbye of all the tournaments that have been important for me in my tennis career during this year [2024]," Nadal added at the press conference.

"And just try to enjoy that, being competitive and enjoying being on court, something that today is not possible now."

Should he make a full recovery as the year progresses it seems likely that Nadal will return to play in events that he missed at Doha, Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Italy.

And, of course, Nadal is also a five-time champion at the Abu Dhabi Mubadala Tennis Championship, a high-profile exhibition tournament that attracts the world’s best players every year at the start of the season.

Fans in the UAE will be waiting with bated breath to see if the iconic Spanish player returns to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in his final year of his glorious career.


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