John McEnroe fires LeBron James warning to Rafael Nadal as French Open missed

Rafael Nadal set for 2024 farewell after pulling out of French Open

The prospect of Rafael Nadal returning to Roland-Garros next year and winning the French Open once again cannot be ruled out. That’s the view of tennis legend John McEnroe who also compared the Spaniard to NBA great LeBron James.

Nadal will not be defending his French Open title in Paris this week as he continues to recover from an injury that has put him out of action since the Australian Open in January.

The 36-year-old holds the record for the most consecutive weeks in the ATP world rankings top 10 at a staggering 912 weeks but has seen his position now slip to 15th.

With a joint-record 22 Grand Slam titles to his name, including a record 14 French Open titles, Nadal has achieved everything there is in the sport and expects 2024 to be his last season on tour.

Speaking to Eurosport about Nadal’s absence in Paris, McEnroe said: “It’s unfortunate obviously. But it does open the door and I think it’s inevitable, they say Father Time wins every time, and that’s what’s happened here.

“I’m sure that Rafa did everything he could to try to play and this is not the way he wants it to end so that’s why he’s talked about playing next year.

“Whatever Rafa wants to do is something that we should respect and any player…you watch [Andy] Murray play, he’s not the same player that he was and not nearly as highly ranked, but he wants to go out on his own terms and I’m sure it’ll be the same with Rafa.”

Basketball legend James is also coming close to the end of his career. The 38-year-old still plays at the highest level in the NBA for the LA Lakers, but a recent playoff defeat to the Denver Nuggets left him with “a lot to think about”.

Tennis expert McEnroe, who won seven career Grand Slams but not the French Open, can see the similarities between Nadal and James, but wouldn’t rule out the legendary Spaniard returning to clinch a historic 15th triumph in Paris next year.

McEnroe said: “I would never say that he couldn’t win at Roland-Garros. Anyone that’s done what he’s done, as long as he stepped foot on a court would have a great chance. He reminds me a lot of Lebron James. LeBron James is a little bit older and is part of a team, but I think he proved he was still a fantastic player.

“But you know, maybe at the end of those [season-end] games he got a little tired because too much was expected from him. And at some point, that’s what’s gonna happen to Rafa, it happens to everybody, you’re going to be asking too much. So it’s hard to know, at this point. By the time he [Nadal] plays next year, if he plays, he’d be 38 years old during the tournament.”

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