Two-time Australian Open champion Rafa Nadal has confirmed he will return to tennis in 2024, but he isn't sure when. After returning to training a few weeks ago, having undergone an operation on his inner hip, the Spaniard says he will announce when exactly he will return to action in the coming weeks.
Nadal hasn't competed on the ATP Tour since the 2023 Australian Open in January. His triumph the year prior in Melbourne was a legendary feat but since then he has struggled with injuries.
After going on to win Roland Garros in 2022, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon match against Nick Kyrgios. He returned to action in the 2023 Australian Open but was knocked out in the second round by American MacKenzie McDonald and hasn't played since.
Speaking to media on Wednesday afternoon in Barcelona, the tennis great admitted he wasn't sure at one stage this year if he'd ever play again. "I'm well, training, and happy," he said. "Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I'm still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.
"We know that the pain will never disappear, but I’ve taken a step forward... The steps toward trying to play again have been big and positive, which is what we have been fighting for for several months. I’m confident I’ll be able to say something more specific in the coming weeks.
"I've always maintained hope that I would play again. How much? At what level? It’s difficult to answer that. I never lost hope I'd play. Things gradually become clear with the passing of the weeks. At the moment I’m on the right track."
Nadal has suggested that 2024 will be his final season on tour. The 37-year-old has 22 slams to his name, second on the all-time list behind Novak Djokovic. Nadal is understood to be targeting the Australian Open for his return and while he has given up hope of securing more grand slams than the World No.1, the Spanish star says he is just excited to return to the court.
"The hope is that I’ll play again," he said. "You never know what will happen. My gut says it will be very difficult to get back to a good level of tennis. If I wasn’t hopeful of trying to be competitive, I wouldn’t be doing everything I’ve done over the past months at my age and after a long career.
“The years pass by. My hope is that I will play again, and that is hugely satisfying to me on a personal level. I won’t win more Grand Slams than Djokovic, but I will have the chance to enjoy myself again.”
Australian Open boss confident Nadal will feature at Melbourne Park
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley announced last month that the 22-time grand slam champion would play at the Aussie Open. Speaking on Channel 9's 'Today', Tiley confirmed he would be among the biggest stars slated to appear in the first Grand Slam tournament of the new year.
"The return of some of the greats, and those champions who have been off for a couple of years," Tiley said on Channel 9's 'Today' show. "We can reveal exclusively here that Rafa will be back.
"He's been off for most of the year, and in talking to him over the last few days he confirmed he will be back, which we're really excited about. That's awesome."
Nadal later moved to clarify that he's by no far a certain starter at Melbourne Park. Some suggested Tiley was trying to sell tickets by touting Nadal's participation without any official confirmation.
In the same interview, Tiley also said he is confident Kyrgios would be competing. The Australian has only played one match at the ATP level this year due to recurring knee and wrist injuries.
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