If Rafa Nadal wants to have more success, he has to play less.

He has to follow the lead of Roger Federer and Serena Williams, and maybe even the examples of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter as they wound down their careers at the top level.

The World No1's retirement in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarter final on Wednesday night was a shattering blow for the Spaniard, and something that may haunt him for some time.

Read more: Rafael Nadal blames Australian Open organisers for injury

Advertisement

His frustration at the end of the match against Marin Cillic – as he threw his wristbands onto the ground in disgust – spoke volumes.

His body had given way again, just as he looked on course for another Australian Open final.

Nadal desperately wants another title in Melbourne, to go with his 2009 triumph.

That would make him the first man in the Open era, and just the third in history, after Rod Laver and Roy Emerson, to win each Grand Slam twice.

But it may never happen, as Nadal's punishing schedule always seems to count against him in Melbourne.

Nadal has a 26-7 win loss record in Grand Slam quarter finals, but five of those seven defeats have come in Melbourne.

He has a 5-5 record in the last eight at the Australian Open, compared with 10-1 at Roland Garros, 5-0 at Wimbledon and 6-1 at the US Open.

And it's not the first time injury has affected Nadal in Melbourne.

There was the 2014 Australian Open final against Stan Wawrinka, the 2011 quarter final against Ferrer, or the 2010 clash with Andy Murray, which was the last time he retired from a grand slam match.

Nadal's style of play will always be more taxing on his body than most of his rivals in the top 10.

He doesn't have the big serve, and hence the free points as his counterparts in the top 10, and while he has tried to become more aggressive in recent years, he still has to work harder than most to grind though matches.

His physical style of game has taken a toll, with wrist, knee, back, ankle and elbow problems over the years.

But the over riding issue is his schedule.

Nadal still plays far too much.

He is entering his 18th year on the tour, but still maintains the schedule of a teenager.

Unlike the likes of Federer and Williams, he has made few allowances for his age or physical condition.

Nadal took the court 78 times last year, playing almost 20 more matches than Roger Federer.

He played his usual mammoth clay court season (Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Roland Garros), while Federer sat out that swing entirely.

Nadal also played Beijing, Shanghai and Paris, while Federer was only sighted in Shanghai.

And the 16-time grand slam champion entered the ATP world tour finals in London, even though he was carrying a knee injury and withdrew after losing his first match.

Nadal enjoys playing, and feels more confident from time on court. He also covets the No 1 ranking – maybe because he spent a record 160 weeks at No 2 behind Roger Federer.

But maybe it's time to reconsider his priorities. Forget all the extra tournaments, flag the exhibitions, and focus on the Slams, which is what history does.

"I am probably the top player that had more injuries and more troubles in the careers of everyone, no? Is always about this challenge," said Nadal in London last year. "But I am used to this and I know what I have to do. I think I am ready to do it."

Now is the time, Rafa.