Rafael Nadal believes Serena Williams is “one of the greatest sportspeople of all time” and will be “sad” when she retires from tennis.
Williams, who suggested she could leave the sport after the upcoming US Open, is the most successful tennis player in the Open Era with 23 Grand Slam singles titles and has spent 319 weeks as the world No. 1.
The 40-year-old revealed she is “evolving away” from tennis to focus on family and business commitments.
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“She is one of the greatest sports [people] of all time,” Nadal said. “I feel lucky to share a tour for a long period of time with her.
“Of course, from a selfish point of view it’s sad that she’s leaving the tour but, on the other hand, we can’t thank her enough for all the things that she did for our sport.
“I think she’s an amazing inspiration for a lot of people around the world and I think she deserves to choose whatever works for her better at this stage off her life. So I wish her all the best.”
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Nadal on return to tennis
Nadal will play his first competitive tennis match on Wednesday since withdrawing from his semi-final with Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon last month.
The Spaniard suffered a 7mm tear to his abdominal muscle and admits he will be cautious after his latest injury.
“I hope to be ready,” Nadal said. “Of course, I had a small tear in the abdominal so it’s dangerous. The abdominal is the place that is dangerous because in every serve you put a lot of effort there.
“I need to take things a little bit easier and do the highs the proper way. That’s what I’m trying to do. Try to be a little more conservative but I hope I can be ready to play.”
Nadal, who has a chance to become world No.1 if he wins in Cincinnati and Daniil Medvedev fails to reach the quarter-finals, revealed he only began to serve last week
The 22-time Grand Slam champion says he wants to take things day by day and enjoy the tournament this week.
“Of course, I need some more days to analyse how things are going in terms of abdominal feeling,” Nadal added.
“Because at the end of the day it’s more than one month without serving and without playing any set. So I need to analyse after every day that the abdominal is still OK with no feeling because, as I said, it’s a dangerous thing.
“But things are going well for the moment, so hopefully I can manage to be ready. I’m excited. I want to play tennis again on the tour. I’m having a good season, I’m enjoying it, so I want to enjoy this week in Cincinnati.”
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