Tennis

Rafael Nadal skipping Wimbledon to prepare for Paris Olympics on clay

Nadal will compete at the Olympics on the clay courts he has dominated for two decade

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Rafael Nadal is going to skip Wimbledon, as expected, and instead prepare for the Paris Olympics by entering a clay-court tournament in Bastad, Sweden, he hasn't been to in 19 years.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion, who turned 38 on June 3, said Thursday he wants to just remain on clay, rather than switching over to grass for the All England Club, then needing to go back to clay for the Summer Games.

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“We believe that the best for my body is not to change surface,” Nadal said in a statement.

He has been dealing with hip and abdominal injuries over the past 1 1/2 years, including having surgery in 2023, and has been forced to play a limited schedule. Nadal was defeated in the first round of the French Open late last month by eventual runner-up Alexander Zverev — marking the first time in Nadal's career he has lost consecutive matches on clay.

The Summer Games will hold the tennis competition at Roland Garros starting on July 27. That is the site of the French Open, where Nadal has won a record 14 titles.

Nadal will play doubles — with Carlos Alcaraz — and singles at the OIympics, Spanish men’s tennis captain David Ferrer said Wednesday. Alcaraz, 21, won the French Open on Sunday for his third Grand Slam title. He is the youngest man to own major championships on all three surfaces.

After his exit against Zverev in Paris, Nadal was asked about participating at Wimbledon, which runs from July 1-14.

“Looks difficult, honestly. For me, now, I can’t confirm what’s going on, but it looks difficult to make a transition to grass, having the Olympics again on clay,” he said.

“But I don’t think it’s going to be smart, after all the things that happened to my body," Nadal continued, "(to) now make a big transition to a completely different surface and then come back immediately to clay.”

He won two titles at Wimbledon, beating Roger Federer in the 2008 final and Tomas Berdych in the 2010 final.

Nadal also was the runner-up there three times and exited after reaching the semifinals in each of his past three appearances, including his last trip to the All England Club, in 2022, when he withdrew from the final four because of a torn abdominal muscle.

“I will miss playing at the Championships this year at Wimbledon. I am saddened not to be able to live this year the great atmosphere of that amazing event that will always be in my heart,” Nadal said Thursday, “and be with all the British fans that always gave me great support. I will miss you all.”

This will be his fourth appearance at Bastad — a clay-court tournament that starts July 15, the day after Wimbledon — and first since 2005.

Nadal won the trophy there that year, beating Berdych in the final.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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