It's not just Rafael Nadal: Retirement is in the tennis air as the French Open starts (2024)

PARIS (AP) — It’s not just Rafael Nadal who has folks wondering how many more tennis matches remain in his career.

With the French Open set to start Sunday, plenty of accomplished players are getting ready to bid adieu to the sport soon, including three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, major finalist Danielle Collins and French fan favorite Alizé Cornet.

“It’s not your ‘forever’ career,” said Collins, a 30-year-old from Florida who was the runner-up at the 2022 Australian Open. “There’s nobody playing until you’re 50.”

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

“All of these people had a great run. They’re not retiring because they were in a car accident or because the back gave out. So there is that,” said Martina Navratilova, an 18-time major champ who now works for Tennis Channel. “I think it's just 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 turning 40 — Federer finished up with a Laver Cup doubles match alongside rival and friend Nadal, who turns 38 on June 3 and has indicated this is likely his last season; Williams was feted at one last U.S. Open.

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

Nadal, a 14-time title winner at the French Open but limited by injuries the past two seasons, and Murray, who has an artificial hip and originally intended to retire several years ago, both were more vague and left a bit of wiggle room.

“I’m likely not going to play past this summer,” Murray, who turned 37 last week, said in February, leading fans to believe he wants to bow out at Wimbledon, which the Briton won in 2013 and 2016.

Cornet, a 34-year-old from France, put the word out there that the French Open will be it for her, allowing the home crowd to bid her a proper adieu. This will be the 20th consecutive year she has played at Roland Garros, where her Grand Slam debut came in 2005.

“This is where I wanted to say farewell to professional tennis,” Cornet said. “I am glad to have reached that point in my life where I can say goodbye in front of my fans and my family.”

There are also those who hold out hope of a return for some.

As Sebastian Korda, a 23-year-old American seeded 27th in Paris, said when asked about Thiem's upcoming departure: “Maybe he changes mind at the end of the year and keeps going.”

That's certainly always a possibility in any walk of life — and tennis is a sport with a rich history of comebacks. Navratilova, for example. initially retired in 1994, but later came back and wound up competing until 2006.

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

“This lifestyle is not always an easy one. I know it seems very glamorous and really ritzy-glitzy, but it really isn't like that. I don't think it's always a sustainable lifestyle with just how much traveling we're doing,” Collins said this month. “It's hard to balance your day-to-day life with your work life when you are traveling up to 30-plus weeks out of the year ... That takes a toll on people.”

She's been playing as well as ever, claiming consecutive titles at Miami and Charleston during a stretch in which she went 19-1.

That's led to questions about whether she would reconsider quitting. She insists that's not an option, in part because her choice to stop 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's now eager to start a family.

“People want to see me playing longer. I think people feel bad about my health stuff ... Everybody has different ways of ending their professional journey. For me, I want to go out playing my best tennis, because I certainly wouldn't want to go out playing my worst tennis,” Collins said. “It's important for me to feel like, ‘OK, I got everything I could out of myself as an athlete,' and end on a positive note, rather than being, like: 'Oh, God. What happened?’”

AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.

AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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It's not just Rafael Nadal: Retirement is in the tennis air as the French Open starts (2024)

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