Rafael Nadal is “definitely next on the list” to retire as middle age catches up with the ‘Big Three’ of men’s tennis, according to Marion Bartoli.
Former Wimbledon champion Bartoli hopes Nadal will call it a day in 2023, following the example of Roger Federer who chose the Laver Cup as his farewell tournament.
This weekend’s showpiece in London marks the end of the Swiss great’s stellar career, after complications with a knee injury left the 41-year-old resigned to his fate.
Amid the spotlight on Federer, the conversation turns to how long their great rivals could have left at the top, with Nadal’s ongoing foot problems seemingly making him the prime candidate to leave the tour and give him a break for your body.
Speaking to Stats Perform, Bartoli said: “I think he’s definitely thinking about retiring. His wife is also about to give birth to their first child – that’s a big change in anyone’s life.”
“And he’s also got his fair share of injuries over the years, and especially lately with his foot, which is really something that can stop him anytime from now.”
“I think he will give him another chance at Roland Garros next year, but I don’t see him going beyond 2023. I think that would be it. I think Rafa is closer to retirement than Novak.”
“I think Novak has been capable, being vegan and taking care of his body and obviously for COVID reasons, he hasn’t really played that much in the last three years.
Nadal and Djokovic have inched ahead of Federer on the list of all-time Grand Slam men’s singles champions. Federer was the first to reach 20, but Djokovic is 21 now and Nadal leads the way with 22 majors.
Bartoli, who was a surprise Wimbledon winner in 2013, noted that Djokovic, who at 35 is a year younger than Nadal, could have several more years to push the slam record even higher.
“It monitors those records so poorly that I think it will probably look more towards 2024, maybe 2025.” [for his retirement]Bartoli said of the Serb. “I think Rafa is definitely next on the list.”
Bartoli expects Djokovic to finish first in the men’s game, provided he is allowed to compete in future editions of the Australian Open and US Open.
“From a tennis analysis point of view, and obviously looking at Novak’s strengths on hard courts and at the Australian Open and at Wimbledon, it looks like he will finish on top,” the Frenchwoman said.
“But then the issue is about the vaccine, and this is something I just can’t answer about. Because if he still only gets two chances out of four every year, that’s a whole different story.
“So there’s that question mark about something that big. If he plays four out of four every year, yeah, I think he’s going to finish above everyone. If he can play a full schedule because everything reopened normally, then I honestly think he’s going to finish in the top”.
Djokovic is hopeful that he will be allowed to enter Australia in January next year as he was deported from Melbourne at the start of this season amid huge controversy.
Previously there was considered to be a ‘Big Four’ at the top of the men’s game, but Andy Murray was unable to keep up with the Grand Slam-winning exploits of his rivals.
Bartoli said he remembered how “the whole country blew up” in Britain when Murray won 2013 at Wimbledon, the first local men’s singles champion in 77 years.
He was “so happy” that Murray was able to continue his career after undergoing hip surgery, as at one point he planned to retire after Wimbledon in the 2019 season.
Now Bartoli suspects that three-time slam champion Murray, 35, could outlast Nadal on the ATP Tour.
“His fitness level has really improved, so I think he seems to retire for me further than Rafa,” said Bartoli. “I think Rafa will be the first, and probably Andy and then Novak.”