Rafael Nadal has admitted that the schedule for his return to tennis will hinge on two key conditions, including how competitive he feels. The 37-year-old has been sidelined since January after picking up a psoas injury and underwent surgery in June. He has since targeted next year for a comeback and a potential farewell. And Nadal has now outlined what will determine how much he competes.
Nadal has been absent for almost the entirety of the 2023 season after getting injured during his second-round loss at the Australian Open. The Spaniard attempted a comeback for the clay season but his body didn’t co-operate and in May, he called a press conference to announce that he would likely retire in 2024.
The former world No 1 then underwent arthroscopic hip surgery on the eve of his birthday in June. Details of his recovery and expected comeback have since been scarce but Nadal has now opened up on his plans for a return and admitted there was still a lot of uncertainty over whether he could play a fuller schedule or whether he would say “goodbye” at a few tournaments.
“No not at all. I have assumed it. It is what it is. I am very aware of this,” Nadal told AS when he was asked if he was concerned about the possibility of returning and not winning. “Right now that’s not in my head, just putting myself in a situation where I can train and reach a competitive level to be able to play on the circuit.”
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And the 22-time Major winner emphasised the importance of feeling competitive as he admitted the amount of tournaments he played would likely depend on how well he could challenge in matches. Nadal continued: “This is my current dream, to go out on a tennis court and feel like I can play competitively. This is the first objective.
“Afterwards you never know. In the end, I am aware. If I’m only there for that, to go out on a court and feel that I’m only going out to be minimally competitive, to not make a mess and such, then I’m not going to play much. I’m going to be in the few tournaments I feel like saying goodbye to.”
Nadal also cited another condition to his 2024 schedule – if he felt like he could achieve things that “really excite” him, likely big titles. “Another thing is that I feel strong and competitive to aspire to things that really excite me, then the approach will be different,” he added.
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For now, the Spaniard doesn’t know which way things will go when he eventually does return to the tour and is hoping to have a better idea of his recovery progress in mid-November. “But I can’t know this right now. I have my different options open and depending on how I feel, I will apply one or the other,” he said.
But the 37-year-old is also staying very realistic and leaving the door open for anything. Nadal admitted that 2024 may not be his last year if he can be truly competitive when he returns. But he also hasn’t ruled out the idea that he could be prevented from coming back entirely – even if it’s just for a farewell. “There is also the possibility that I may not recover and not play again,” he confessed.
It remains to be seen if and when Nadal does return to competition but the 92-time title winner has already outlined some of his hopes – including the Olympics, with the tennis event being staged at the French Open. Nadal is hoping to join forces with young countryman Carlos Alcaraz but the pair are yet to discuss their possible link-up.
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