Rafael Nadal makes stunning admission about Italian Open farewell and retirement

Shahida Jacobs
Rafael Nadal talks to the media
Rafael Nadal of Spain attends a tennis press conference

Rafael Nadal has refused to confirm that he has made his final Italian Open appearance as he left the door open for a possible return to Rome, which raises questions about his retirement plan.

After announcing last year that the 2024 tennis season would likely be his final on the ATP Tour, every tournament that Nadal participates in this campaign is seen as a farewell event.

There were ceremonies after the Barcelona Open and Madrid Open as fans were given an opportunity to say goodbye and there was even an emotional speech from the tennis legend after his round of 16 defeat at the ATP Masters 1000 event in the Spanish capital.

“I was able to say goodbye playing on this court, one of the most emotional ones for me. Madrid at times has been more important to me than a Grand Slam. The memories here will stay with me forever,” he said in Madrid.

But there was no such ceremony after he lost in the second round of the Italian Open against Hubert Hurkacz on Saturday.

Many expected organisers to roll out the red carpet with speeches to follow, but Nadal explained during his press conference that there is still a chance – albeit a very small chance – that he could return to Foro Italico.

“I don’t know if this is going to be the last time I’m going to play here or not,” he said. “Of course, is much more chances that today’s the last one. But, of course, I am not a guy that I make decisions in hot moments, in the tough moments. Just try to let it be little bit the time and then let’s see.”

He added: “I have never said that this would be my last time here. I said it in Madrid because that was the case, here I am not 100% sure. It is probably 98%, but I will not say it for sure when it is not.

“They are different sensations here and in Madrid, a different story, a different moment. I didn’t expect to have any ceremony. If I retire, they will have time to prepare something in the coming years.”

READ MORE: Rafael Nadal has the answers he needed from Rome – what happens next?

There is a reason for his special relationship with Rome as he has won 10 titles in the Italian capital with the first coming during his debut in 2005 and the last in 2021.

His win-loss record at Foro Italico is 70–9 (89%).

“I always say that I will never be able to thank enough all the love and support that I receive around the world,” he said. “Here in Rome is obviously one of the most important events in my tennis career, one of these events that’s as going to be in my heart for so many reasons.

“But here I played a few of the most important matches, beautiful matches, emotional ones. In a lot of moments of my tennis career, I was able to come back from tough moments playing here in Rome, especially the last eight years when I arrive here with some doubts, then I started to play well here.

“Obviously it was not the case today, but it really happened in the past. Yeah, I enjoyed a lot playing in this court.”