Analysis: Rafael Nadal might never play again; he also might surprise us and win something

May 19, 2023  -Whenever it comes to a close — and even if it already has — Rafael Nadal’s superlative tennis career will be admired for achievements such as 22 Grand Slam titles, currently tied for the most by a man, and a record 14 French Open championships. As it should be.

Nadal’s playing days, though, also will be remembered for more than mere numbers. That bullwhip of a lefty forehand. Engaging rivalries with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Unprecedented dominance at Roland Garros, where a statue of him stands. Unfailing humility. Those muscle-bearing shirts and calf-covering capri pants of the early days. The still-present penchant for placing courtside bottles just so. And on it goes.

Any complete conversation about Nadal also must include a reference to the body-bruising style and endless effort, in matches and practice sessions, that fueled more than 1,000 wins and surely contributed to all of the many injuries. He announced Thursday that he has not healed enough to enter the field in Paris, where play begins May 28, and can’t be absolutely sure when he might be able to return to the tour after being sidelined since January by a left hip flexor problem.

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