French Open: Nadal targets 'solution' to extend his career but admits the end could be close

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Rafael Nadal has declared he does not want this to be his final French Open.

The announcement from Nadal seems to put to bed the theory that he could announce an immediate retirement if he wins the title for a 14th time at Roland Garros on Sunday.

Nadal, who takes on Alexander Zverev in Friday's semi-finals, is battling a long-troubling foot problem in Paris and remarkably saw off Novak Djokovic in an electrifying showdown on Tuesday night.

His pain threshold appears to be far beyond that of the average human, and Nadal has brought a doctor with him to France to further improve his prospects of lasting the distance.

Friday also marks Nadal's 36th birthday, and he has dropped heavy hints that this might be his final fling.

However, if that proves to be the case, it will be with heavy reluctance on Nadal's part, as he made clear on Thursday.

Speaking to Spanish broadcaster TVE, Nadal said: "I have always had things clear. I accept things as they come. At no time do I intend for it to seem like a farewell.

"What happens is that there is a reality that today is what it is. We will continue working to find solutions to what is happening down here.

"I trust and hope to be able to return. What happens is that there is a year to go, and it is evident that these last months, not these last three, I would say that since last year they are being difficult.

"The day-to-day with everything that entails is being difficult, not because of the effort that it entails for me, but also to maintain competitiveness. I play to be competitive, which is what really makes me happy.

"We are going to enjoy the moment and after this we will continue thinking about the things that need to be improved, and the hope is to continue."

There would seem a strong chance that Nadal elects to miss the grass-court season in order to rest up, but he continues to defy expectations, so nothing can be ruled out.

Should he triumph in a grand slam for a 22nd time on Sunday, it would take him two clear of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time list.

Nadal's record at this tournament is quite extraordinary, surpassing the achievement of any other player in tennis history at a single grand slam.

Alongside his 13 French Open titles, he has won 330 of the 364 sets he has contested at the event and owns a 110-3 win-loss match record.

Some 88 of those wins at the French Open have come in straight sets, and from 2010 to 2015 he reeled off 39 victories in succession, until Djokovic beat him in the quarter-finals.

Nadal has won 23 6-0 sets at his favourite major, including subjecting Federer and Djokovic to such torture in the 2008 and 2020 finals respectively.

Zverev has only been to one grand slam final, losing at the US Open to Dominic Thiem in 2020, but may think his time is coming after an impressive quarter-final win over Carlos Alcaraz, the 19-year-old widely acclaimed as the next clay-court king.

It might help the German that the spotlight will be fixed on Nadal, too, as it invariably is on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

There has been no collective chasing away of Nadal amid the talk that his career could be on the rocks, and no media agenda involved. This is a thrilling late-career resurgence from the Spaniard that many, albeit perhaps not Djokovic supporters, would like to see continue.

This time he has laid his injury situation quite bare, and magical nights such as the four-set epic against Djokovic this week are becoming increasingly loaded with poignancy.

As Nadal said in a news conference after that match, regardless of his intentions, this could well be his French Open farewell.

"Yes, I can't say another thing, no?" Nadal said. "I am very clear about that, no?

"I am old enough to not hide things or come here and say a thing that I don't believe. I don't know what can happen. I think, as I said before, I'm gonna be playing this tournament because we are doing the things to be ready to play this tournament, but I don't know what's gonna happen after here.

"I mean, I have what I have there in the foot, so if we are not able to find an improvement or a small solution on that, then it's becoming super difficult for me.

"I am just enjoying every day that I have the chance to be here, and without thinking much about what can happen in the future.

"Of course I'm gonna keep fighting to find a solution for that, but for the moment, we haven't. So to just give myself a chance to play another semi-final here in Roland Garros is a lot of energy for me."

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