The return of Rafael Nadal: Dates and what we know so far

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) /

After months of thinking about “will he or won’t he?” return, the tennis world got some very positive news this week about Rafael Nadal. The all-time great hasn’t played since January 2023 due to a hip flexor injury. Nadal then decided to have surgery on his hip over the summer and any idea of if or when he would return to playing professional tennis was anyone’s guess, including Nadal himself.

This week, though, Rafael Nadal said something fantastic. Nadal said, “…the steps toward trying to play again have been big and positive, which is what we have been fighting for for several months.” Big and positive. Those are excellent words, right?

Nadal did not, however, say exactly when he would be back. He said he would hope to have more information on that in the coming weeks. He has recently got back to training, though. The tennis season begins in early January and the first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, begins on January 15.

Rafael Nadal inching closer to returning to tennis

That is an earlier start to the first major than normal. As every week seems important in getting Rafael Nadal back in the right condition to play high-level tennis, the early start to the Aussie Open might mean Nadal is not going to be ready for that.

Nadal might also wait to come back until the clay court season which begins in full in April. Most likely, many tennis fans do not want to read that Nadal will not return for several more months, and he could return well before then, but clay is an easier surface on the body than the hard courts of the Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal did make a fairly big admission, too. He is not sure if he will ever play at the level we became accustomed to on his way to winning 22 Grand Slams. Said Nadal, “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.”

He added, “I won’t win more Grand Slams than (Novak) Djokovic, but I will have the chance to enjoy myself again.” We should all have that same hope, right? Just to be able to enjoy ourselves.

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