Time ticking for Spain’s Nadal and Switzerland’s Federer

Grand Slam warhorses Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are bracing for a battle against time, as well as the all-powerful figure of Novak Djokovic, if they are to add to their haul of majors.

Time ticking for Spain's Nadal and Switzerland's Federer
Exit stage right? Are Federer and Nadal reaching the end? Photo: AFP

Nadal on Friday sent shockwaves through the French Open when he withdrew with a tendon injury in his left wrist with just two rounds played.

It came just a year after the nine-time champion was defeated in the quarter-finals by nemesis Djokovic — only his second ever defeat at the French Open.

Tellingly, the hammer-blow also comes just a week away from his 30th birthday.

At least Nadal had the comfort of making it to Paris this year.

Swiss champ Federer, 34, pulled out on the eve of the tournament with a back injury, ending a run of 65 consecutive Grand Slam appearances stretching back to the 1999 US Open.

Both men insist they are not finished with careers that have brought 17 majors for Federer and 14 for Nadal.

“I remain as motivated and excited as ever and my plan is to achieve the highest level of fitness before returning to the ATP World Tour for the upcoming grass court season,” said Federer when he withdrew from Paris.

Federer's greatest triumphs have come at Wimbledon where he is a seven-time champion.

However, the Swiss, who has played just four tournaments in 2016, will be 35 in August and history is against him.

Arthur Ashe was the oldest man to win at the All England Club just a month short of his 32nd birthday in 1975.

Ken Rosewall was 37 when he became the oldest Slam winner of all time at the 1972 Australian Open.

But Ashe and Rosewall belong to a very different era when the sport was played at a more sober pace in the infancy of the professional age.

Federer has not won a Slam since Wimbledon in 2012 whereas Nadal's most recent major was in Paris in 2014.

Nadal will be almost 31 in 2017 if he returns to play the French Open, the tournament where he captured his first Slam as a 19-year-old in 2005.

He may be encouraged by the fact that the oldest winner in Paris was Andres Gimeno who was well past 34 in 1972.

But for Federer and Nadal it's all a far cry from the days when their combined 31 Slams came from the 44 played between the Swiss star's 2003 Wimbledon breakthrough and Nadal's ninth French Open two years ago.

Nadal, who had showed signs of a renaissance this year after his worst season as a professional in 2015, remains confident that his career is not over.

“This is a tough moment and the toughest press conference I have ever had to give but it's not the end,” said the Spaniard who, nevertheless, faces a race against time to be fit for Wimbledon next month.

Nadal's lifelong friend, French player Richard Gasquet, said he was hopeful of seeing the world number five back in action.

“I have a lot of respect for him, and I feel sorry. If he's decided to stop, it must be serious,” said Gasquet.

“It can't be something small. He's had small things and he knows to deal with pain. This time it must be serious. It's a big loss for the tournament, and I hope he will recover.

“That's the most important. I hope he will recover quickly and come back to the circuit.”

However, the physical and psychological threat posed by world number one Djokovic remains a mighty obstacle.

Djokovic leads Federer 23-22 in head to heads and has taken seven of their last 10 meetings.

Against Nadal, Djokovic is 26-23 to the good, winning 11 of the last 12.

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IN PICS: Rafa Nadal weds childhood sweetheart in Mallorca

Rafael Nadal married his partner of 14 years, Xisca Perello, at a castle in Mallorca on Saturday.

IN PICS: Rafa Nadal weds childhood sweetheart in Mallorca
Photo: Fundacion Rafa Nadal

Nadal, the 19-time grand slam champion, tied the knot with 31-year-old Perello at La Fortaleza, with a reported 350 guests invited to a private ceremony.

Juan Carlos I, the king of Spain from 1975 to 2014, was believed to be among those in attendance while the Michelin-star chef, Quique Dacosta, was reportedly in charge of catering.

The newlyweds shared some official photos of the day through the Fundacion Rafa Nadal, the NGO the tennis player set up on Mallorca

Photo: Fundacion Rafa Nadal


Nadal, 33, met his wife through his younger sister Maribel, a childhood friend of Perello.

They started dating in 2005 when they were both teenagers after meeting several years before.

Photo: Fundacion Rafa Nadal

The couple announced their engagement in January and revealed that the tennis ace had proposed on a romantic trip to Rome last May but chose to  keep the news private.


Perello, has always shunned the media spotlight although she has been pictured courtside at some of Nadal’s biggest matches.

Nadal kisses Perello after winning against France's Gael Monfils in the final tennis match at the Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series Tournament in Monaco on April 17, 2016. 

But she isn't always there. In a 2011 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Perello explained: “He needs his space when he is competing, and just the idea of me hanging around and waiting on his needs all day tires me out.

“It would asphyxiate me. And then he would have to be worrying about me… No. If I followed him everywhere, I think there's a risk we might stop getting along.”

She works in insurance and is a business graduate but also serves as project director for the Rafa Nadal Foundation, the charity which Nadal launched almost ten years ago.

In an interview with sports newspaper Marca last year, the world number 2 hinted that he wouldn't be ready to start a family until he had retired from tennis. 

'I keep my commitment with tennis and my happiness', Nadal told Marca. 'I enjoy both in tennis and outside it. I have a girlfriend too and I am not alone to take decisions.

“Having family? I don't know, things are not easy to be predict. At this age, I thought that I would have already been a former player and that I would have started a family.”

READ ALSO: Rafa Nadal donates €1million to help victims of Mallorca floods