Rafael Nadal ‘reminds me a lot of LeBron James’

Shahida Jacobs
Rafael Nadal in full flow

John McEnroe would never put it past Rafael Nadal to return to Roland Garros and win another title, but he feels Father Time has caught up with the tennis great the same way it caught up with basketball legend LeBron James.

22-time Grand Slam winner Nadal will miss his French Open title defence as he has failed to overcome the hip injury he sustained at the Australian Open in mid-January.

The Spaniard, though, confirmed during a press conference last week that he hopes to return to action later this year while he also revealed he plans to retire after the 2024 season.

Seven-time major champion McEnroe feels it is important that legends like Nadal go out on their own terms.

“It’s unfortunate obviously,” the American told Eurosport.

“But it does open the door and I think it’s inevitable, they say Father Time wins every time, and that’s what’s happened here.

“I’m sure that Rafa did everything he could to try to play and this is not the way he wants it to end so that’s why he’s talked about playing next year.

“Whatever Rafa wants to do is something that we should respect and any player…you watch [Andy] Murray play, he’s not the same player that he was and not nearly as highly ranked, but he wants to go out on his own terms and I’m sure it’ll be the same with Rafa.”

Nadal has won a record 14 French Open titles and McEnroe feels it is not impossible for Nadal to add another trophy to the collection should he play in Paris next year.

However, the Eurosport expert sees similarities between Nadal’s final few years as a professional and that of four-time NBA winner James, who has looked a little weary during the LA Lakers’ playoff games.

“I would never say that he couldn’t win at Roland Garros. Anyone that’s done what he’s done, as long as he stepped foot on a court would have a great chance,” he said.

“He reminds me a lot of LeBron James. LeBron James is a little bit older and is part of a team, but I think he proved he was still a fantastic player.

“But you know, maybe at the end of those [season-end] games he got a little tired because too much was expected from him. And at some point, that’s what’s gonna happen to Rafa, it happens to everybody, you’re going to be asking too much.

“So it’s hard to know, at this point. By the time he [Nadal] plays next year, if he plays, he’d be 38 years old during the tournament.”

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