PARIS (AP) — This year’s French Open will not be quite the same without Rafael Nadal.
His energy. His lefty forehands and two-fisted backhands. His sliding across the red clay of Court Philippe Chatrier. His familiar limbs-spread, flat-on-his-back mixture of relief and celebration after winning the championship — whether the year was 2005 or 2019 or any of the many others that add up to a record 14 times in all.
Nadal, a 36-year-old from Spain, announced at a news conference Thursday that the hip injury that has kept him out of action since January will force him to miss his annual trip to compete at Roland Garros.
The clay-court Grand Slam tournament has not been contested without him since 2004, when an ankle problem kept him away. He made his debut the following year, still a teenager, and began his title-monopolizing run right away.
“Tournaments stay forever; players play and leave. So Roland Garros will always be Roland Garros, with or without me, without a doubt. The tournament is going to keep being the best event in the world of clay, and there will be a new Roland Garros champion — and it is not going to be me,” he said Thursday. “And that is life.”