Tiger Woods pays touching tribute to friend Rafael Nadal as retirement beckons for tennis great

Rafael Nadal celebrates Australian Open win

Tiger Woods has admitted that he “doesn’t want to see Rafael Nadal go” as the Spaniard prepares for what will likely be his final tennis season as a professional.

Bar four matches at the start of the year, Nadal missed the 2023 campaign after he sustained a hip injury during his second-round defeat at the Australian Open.

After several failed comeback attempts, the 22-time Grand Slam winner underwent surgery and there were some in the tennis community suggesting that he might not return to competitive tennis again.

However, his rehabilitation has gone well and everything indicates he will make a comeback at the start of the 2024 season with the latest reports indicating that the former world No 1’s Australian Open travel plans are in place.

It won’t be the first time that Nadal – who confirmed during a press conference in June that he will most likely retire at the end of next year – will look to bounce back from a lengthy absence as he has struggled with injury throughout his illustrious career.

Golf legend Woods and many a sports fan have seen it all before and the American opened up about the Spaniard’s “extraordinary” achievements as he lamented the fact that all athletes eventually “get aged out”, including Nadal’s fellow great Roger Federer, who was forced to retire in 2022 after failing to recover from a knee injury.

“Well, I think what Rafa, what he’s done is extraordinary,” the 15-time major winner said at the Hero Challenge. “I mean, he won the Australian Open on a broken foot. The guy is beyond tough and beyond competitive.

“He knows that Father Time is here. Every athlete faces it. Although in some sports it happens faster than others, and unfortunately, just like every sport, you get aged out.

“I don’t want to see him go. I never wanted to see Fed [Roger Federer] go, but that’s what happened.

“We should all enjoy watching him compete and watching him play and what he’s meant to the game, what he’s meant to all of us, just to see the passion of how he plays and why he plays.”

And fans will get to see Nadal in action again at some point in 2024, although his comeback tournament has not been confirmed yet.

The 37-year-old recently gave a positive update about his return as he revealed he will play tennis again.

“Until now, I didn’t know if I would ever play tennis again and now I think so. What has changed from a few weeks ago to now is that now I know that I am going to play tennis again,” he said.

READ MORE: When could Rafael Nadal make his return to tennis and what are the realistic expectations?