This is your chance, better take it: Wilander urges young stars to grab their chance in Nadal’s absence at Roland Garros
New Delhi: As the ‘king of clay’ Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from this year’s French Open, the seven-time grand slam champion Mat Wilander has urged the emerging stars to seize the opportunity in his absence.
The 14-time champion Nadal announced his withdrawal from the clay court major at the Rafa Nadal Academy on Thursday. The Spaniard will not play in the seas’n’s second major for the first time since his tournament debut in 2005.
However, the 22-time major winner added that he will stop for an undetermined length of time and that 2024 is “probably” going to be his last year on the professional tour.
Wilander believes the tournament is not going to be the same without the 36-year-old Nadal, but it will present a huge opportunity for one of the rising stars in the men’s game to seize the chance to claim the title in Rafa’s absence.
“The French Open is just not the same now that Rafael Nadal has decided not to play. The winner is always going to be questioned about if they could have won it if Nadal was in the tournament.
“The positive part of the announcement that Rafa made is that, of course, he is still thinking about playing at least another season.
“We wish for him to play forever, and to play at Roland-Garros forever; but at the same time, I don’t want to see him come to Paris and not be 100%, not feeling good and risking his future life.
“To the rest of the players: this is your chance because Rafa is not there, so you had better take it,” Wilander told Eurosport.
Another Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz and Denmark’s Holger Rune are young players highly anticipated to excel at Roland Garros. But, Wilander expressed disappointment that they won’t have the opportunity to face the legendary Spaniard.
“To the young guys like Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune, it would have been great for them to have been able to play Rafael Nadal at the French Open once before he is done, but we just cross our fingers that he will be back next year,” he said.
“This year is going to be a tough tournament without Rafa — we miss him,” Wilander added.
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