Australian tennis legend Todd Woodbridge has urged Rafael Nadal not to rush into retirement if he wins the Roland-Garros this weekend.
The Spaniard is two wins away from a remarkable 14th title in Paris, and a 22nd Grand Slam win, which will take him away from two long-time rivals, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
But Nadal, now 36, has hinted that this could be his final game at Roland-Garros.
Read more: The first Test between England and New Zealand is evenly balanced on a chaotic opening day
Read more: Tennis comedy that ‘punishes every player’
Read more: Titan star explodes in ‘weak’ team after defeat
Final Guide: State of Origin Game 1
A persistent leg injury has bothered him for some time, and after his quarter-final win against Djokovic, he suggested that the end was almost over.
“Every match I’ve played here, I don’t know if it’s going to be my last match at Roland-Garros in my tennis career,” he said.
“The crowd was amazing from the start of the tournament. I don’t know. I think they probably know I won’t be here much longer.”
Woodbridge, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles of his own, says Nadal’s admission.
He told Wide World of Sports, “He has a lot left there, which is interesting because he is the king of reducing everything, and he doesn’t put any pressure on himself and his opponents,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“There have been a number of comments which suggest that we can see a moment of Pete Sampras with Rafa. Pete won the US Open in 2002 and we have not seen him play in any other tournament.
“There’s something about Rafa right now.”
Woodbridge said that if Nadal wins the Roland-Garros, it will raise a number of questions, especially since he is the Australian Open champion.
“If he can win in Paris, I can’t imagine he’ll go to the grass. It doesn’t seem possible. So, will he go to the United States in a few months with a little more break?” Woodbridge thought.
“He has a lot to think about if he wins the Roland-Garros. Does he think about trying to get to the Calendar Year Grand Slam? There are a lot of questions he probably didn’t expect to answer at the beginning of the year. It changes everything.”
“It depends on how much he thinks he has left to pay. I think it will be too early for him to make a decision directly after this match.”
Nadal showed no signs of discomfort in his legs when he sent Djokovic to four sets in the quarter-finals to set up a semi-final against Alexander Zaverev.
That match lasted four hours and 12 minutes, which Woodbridge believes will be a factor when playing with Spaniard Xavier.
“What we saw from Rafa against Novak was almost superhuman. He seems to be back in the form that has made it difficult for him to lose for so long. The forehand was great, it had real momentum,” he explained.
“The only way I see Rafa losing is if he doesn’t come back physically from that match against Novak. That was the question last year. There was, knowing the movement.
“At 36, these are issues you are never sure about. He played an epic match a decade ago and he can rebound for the next one, sometimes it doesn’t happen as you get older.”
“That’s what we have to see against Zaverev. Rafa didn’t have to play the fifth set against Djokovic.
Standing in the way of Nadal is Zaverev, the third seed who is still looking for his first Grand Slam title.
With Xavier losing to rising star Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals, Woodbridge believes the win was important for his career.
“I thought that if Zaverev had stepped up against Alcaraz, he would have to win that match to be able to move the majors forward,” he said.
“If she had lost the match, I think she would have been the bride at the top of men’s tennis forever.
“He is a little more mature, and has a lot of courage and determination. I was really happy to see him play well in that match.”
The other semifinal pit is against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic eighth seed Caspar Rudd, but that match could only mark the runner-up.
“Rudd is playing the best tournament of his life, and I think he’ll get through the Cilic,” Woodbridge said.
“But Rafa smells of blood in the water, and I don’t think he’ll let go now.”
To get a daily dose of the best breaking news and exclusive content from the Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter Click here!