From potential World No.1 to retirement looming: How it all changed for Nadal in one year

Rafael Nadal had a career comeback in 2022, but a year later, he is on the brink of retirement.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion has always dealt with injuries throughout his career, often forcing him to withdraw from tournaments and endure extended periods of recovery.

In 2021, after the French Open, Nadal played only two matches in the DC Open before ending his season abruptly. Retirement rumors were circulating, but the following year, the Spanish player made a triumphant return with a streak of 21 consecutive wins.

He secured four titles in the Melbourne Summer Set, Australian Open, Mexican Open, and French Open. Additionally, his appearance in the Indian Wells final gave him a shot at the top spot in the rankings, with the opportunity to dethrone Daniil Medvedev from world No. 1.

Although Nadal participated in Wimbledon, he withdrew before the semifinals against Nick Kyrgios, arriving at Cincinnati with limited match practice. Unfortunately, he suffered a first-round defeat to Borna Coric, ending 7-6, 4-6, 6-3.

This outcome dashed his hopes of regaining the world No. 1 ranking, a position he first claimed in 2008 at the age of 22, following a spectacular season featuring seven titles, including the French Open, Wimbledon, and an Olympic gold medal.

His most recent reign as world No. 1 lasted until January 2020, totaling 209 weeks. He ranks sixth among male players with the most weeks at the top, following Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, and Jimmy Connors.

After Cincinnati, Nadal headed to the US Open, still hopeful that a victory might propel him back to world No. 1. However, he only reached the round of 16 and was defeated by Frances Tiafoe with a score of 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Struggling with less-than-optimal physical condition after the US Open, Nadal suffered four consecutive losses, ending the season as world No. 2 behind Carlos Alcaraz.

In early 2023, the 14-time Roland Garros champion entered the Australian Open directly. Despite a first-round victory against Jack Draper, he swiftly exited in the second round against Mackenzie McDonald, marking his most recent match on the ATP tour.

Nadal has revealed his plan to return in 2024, aiming to participate in his favorite tournaments in good physical shape before retiring at the end of that year.

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