The winner of 22 Grand Slam titles, Rafael Nadal witnessed an early elimination from the 2023 Australian Open, suffering a straight-sets defeat against Mackenzie McDonald in the second round. Nadal struggled to even complete the match, suffering a hip issue in the second set. The Spaniard even took a medical timeout before returning to the court but couldn’t play at the tempo he usually does. Giving a rather brutal assessment of the stage Nadal’s career has come, the legendary Boris Becker said that his “days are numbered”.
Becker hailed Nadal as “one of the most important sportsmen of the last 25 years” but feels the Australian Open 2nd Round exit was his first step towards retirement.
“We’ve been talking about the change of generation for a long time, and then Nadal comes along last year and wins not only in Melbourne but also Paris,” Becker said on Eurosport Germany’s Matchball Becker show.
“The question was: Will he play until he’s 40? I don’t think so. Yesterday was already the first step towards his retirement.
“An injury like that is hard, and at this age, it takes even longer to get back into shape. I hope and pray that he will get well soon and that we will see him looking fresh again in Paris at the latest, but I think his days are numbered,” Becker further said.
Hailing Nadal, Becker said that the 36-year-old has changed the way the sport is perceived. While retirement seems close, Becker has no doubt that Nadal will pick up the racquet again.
“He is not only a tennis legend, he is a sports legend. He is one of the most important sportsmen of the last 25 years. He has changed tennis and made it even more popular in his home country of Spain.
“He can become the president if he wants to. I think there would be a big gap if Rafa doesn’t play anymore, but I think he will pick up a racquet again.
Nadal has admitted that he will be away for a few weeks, looking after his health and fitness. Boris expects the veteran star to be 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 favourite for the French Open, but even Rafael Nadal gets older eventually.”
“We talked for a long time about the change of generations – we’re watching it live right now,” he said.
“Roger Federer is no longer playing and there are a lot of question marks behind Nadal now.
“I think he will want to play Paris again. But I don’t know if he will take on Australia again. That’s why we should celebrate him as long as we have him.”