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It's not just Rafael Nadal: retirement is in the tennis air as the French Open begins

It's not just Rafael Nadal: retirement is in the tennis air as the French Open begins


PARIS (AP) It's not just Rafael Nadal who wonders how many tennis matches are left…

PARIS (AP) It's not alone Rafael Nadal which has people wondering how many tennis matches are left in his career.

Of the French Open Kicking off on Sunday, many talented players are preparing to say goodbye to the sport soon, including three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murraygrand finalist Danielle Collins and French fan favorite Aliz Cornet.

It's not your forever career, said Collins, a 30-year-old from Florida who was runner-up at the 2022 Australian Open. There's no one who plays until you're 50.

The list also goes on: Dominic Thiem, the 2020 US Open champion and two-time runner-up at Roland Garros, has said this will be his last season, as will Diego Schwartzman, another former member of the top 10 who once reached the semifinals of the French Open. Both lost in qualifying in Paris on Wednesday.

All these people had a great run. They don't retire because they were in a car accident or their back gave out. So there's that, said Martina Navratilova, an 18-time major league champion who now works for Tennis Channel. I think it's a coincidence that all these great players are retiring at the same time.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams both announced they were done in 2022, after Federer turned 40 and ended with a Laver Cup doubles alongside rival and friend Nadalwho turns 38 on June 3 and has indicated this will likely be his last season; Williams was celebrated at a final US Open.

The current group has also chosen different ways and times to let everyone know their plans.

Nadal, a 14-time French Open title winner but limited by injuries for the past two seasons, and Murray, who has an artificial hip and originally planned to retire several years ago, were both vaguer and left some wiggle room.

I probably won't play beyond this summer, Murray, who turned 37 last week, said in February, leading fans to believe he wanted to withdraw from Wimbledon, which the Briton won in 2013 and 2016.

Cornet, a 34-year-old from France, said the French Open would be it for her, allowing the home crowd to bid her a proper farewell. This will be the twentieth year in a row that she has played at Roland Garros, where she made her Grand Slam debut in 2005.

This is where I wanted to say goodbye to professional tennis, said Cornet. I'm happy that I've reached that point in my life where I can say goodbye in front of my fans and my family.

There are also people who, for some, harbor the hope of a return.

As Sebastian Korda, a 23-year-old American who finished 27th in Paris, said when asked about Thiem's ​​impending departure: Maybe at the end of the year he will change his mind and move on.

That is certainly always possible, in any sector, and tennis is a sport with a rich history of comebacks. Navratilova, for example. initially retired in 1994, but later came back and continued competing until 2006.

Collins, for one, says she's ready to move on. The 30-year-old from Florida surprised the sport in January by saying 2024 would be her final season, right after a loss to No. 1 Iga Swiatek at the Australian Open.

This lifestyle is not always easy. I know it seems very glamorous and very fancy and glitzy, but it's really not like that. I don't think it's always a sustainable lifestyle given the amount of travel we do, Collins said this month. It's hard to balance your daily life and work when you're traveling more than 30 weeks a year… That takes a toll on people.

She's playing as well as ever, claiming back-to-back titles in Miami and Charleston during a stretch that saw her go 19-1.

That led to questions about whether she would reconsider quitting. She insists this isn't an option, in part because her choice to quit is health-related: Collins had surgery in 2021 for endometriosis, which involves abnormal tissue growth from the uterus that can cause severe pain and infertility. She now wants to start a family.

People want to see me play longer. I think people feel bad about my health issues… Everyone has different ways to end their professional journey. For me, I want to play my best tennis because I certainly wouldn't want to play my worst tennis, Collins said. It's important for me to feel like, 'Okay, I've done my best as an athlete,' and end on a positive note, rather than saying, 'Oh God. What happened?


AP sports writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.


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