“I don't think it's going to hurt his legacy if he played another year,” says McEnroe on Nadal’s retirement

Friday, 07 June 2024 at 00:30
John McEnroe does not believe that Rafael Nadal's legacy will be tarnished if he extends his career. The 7-time Grand Slam champion praised Nadal as the player who, in his opinion, has improved the most throughout his career on every surface.
Nadal returned to compete in the French Open, facing Alexander Zverev in the first round, and lost in straight sets, marking only his fourth defeat in the tournament's history. At 38 years old and amid prolonged injuries, retirement seems imminent for the Spaniard. However, he mentioned during the on-court interview at Philippe Chatrier that he wasn't sure if it would be his last appearance at the French Open.

McEnroe Praises Nadal's Enduring Legacy

The past two years have seen Nadal mostly off the courts due to injuries that have prevented him from playing regularly. After barely playing in 2023, it was hoped he would quickly find his form in 2024, but new injuries have hampered his return to the Tour.
McEnroe stated that Nadal is one of the best players of all time, alongside Djokovic and Federer, and that extending his career won't change that. According to the American, only Nadal can decide when it's the right time to end his career, and if he wants to keep playing, it won't harm his legacy: “Rafa is a total class act, and because of his success and the way he is as a person, and what he brings to tennis, no one should be telling him what to do,” McEnroe said.
“I don't think it's going to hurt his legacy if he played another year and didn't do as well. He's one of the [top] two or three to me. You're looking at the three greatest players that ever lived, with Rafa, Novak, and Roger. He brought tennis up to another level.”
Nadal taking a serve at Madrid Open.
McEnroe cited the example of 3-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, who, after two hip surgeries in 2018 and 2019 that resulted in a metal implant, managed to overcome his challenges and return to the Tour at a competitive level with several epic victories.
“Look at Andy Murray. He's been trying to get it right. There are a lot of players. For me, personally, it was a decline over a period of years. You could argue that a lot of players, including myself, when it doesn't appear that you're capable of winning a major, should stop.”
“But that's up to him,” McEnroe added about Nadal. “He's got a legacy that will never be forgotten or tarnished, in my opinion. I don't think the fact that he still loves to play and wants to compete is a bad thing.”
“That's a good thing. The fact that he still wants to do it, even though his body has made it really difficult the last two years, shows you how much he loves tennis, and that's an incredible thing to me.”
Rafa Nadal and Alexander Zverev in the French Open first round. The German won by 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.
McEnroe also highlighted Nadal's significant improvements over his career: “I remember seeing him early on his serve, you know he was hitting it 160-170 kilometers, to 105-110 mph,” he explained. “He beefed up his serve over the course of time. In a way, he showed more improvement than any top player I've ever seen, that he was able to get that much better on all surfaces.”
“That process took the better part of 10-12 years. That would be my peak thought, you know, time around for him,” McEnroe added. “He’s obviously had a lot of issues the last few years, a number of years with injuries, and that hasn't helped. But he's still played at a very high level, but maybe not quite as high as before,” he concluded.

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