Rafael Nadal is on the verge of returning to tennis after getting injured in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open. There was some question as to whether he would ever play professionally again after undergoing hip surgery this past summer. But Nadal has worked, and worked, and worked some more to get himself back into good enough shape that he will play at the Brisbane International in early January.
After Brisbane, Rafael Nadal will participate in the Australian Open in the middle of January. Nadal has won the Grand Slam twice, the last time coming in 2022. 10-time winner Novak Djokovic missed the tournament in 2022 due to his vaccination status. One might argue that Nadal’s win that year should come with an asterisk, just as anyone else winning the French Open in a year Nadal cannot play at Roland Garros should come with an asterisk.
But while Nadal is playing in tournaments in 2024, what kind of success should we expect from one of the best players to ever pick up a racket? According to Rafael Nadal’s former coach and uncle, Toni, the point for Nadal won’t even be to “try to win,” especially at the beginning of the year, but simply “have the feeling of playing well.” Ouch.
Toni Nadal worries about Rafael Nadal’s fitness
Parsed from what Toni said in the above interview with RMC radio’s Bartoli Time show last week, we should not expect anything from Rafael Nadal in 2024 other than him playing hard and failing to win tournaments. The reason, according to Toni, is that “we know that (Rafael’s) legs aren’t the same as they were 10 years ago.” Toni says Rafael will be competitive and play hard, but winning? That’s another issue.
Sports fans have seen plenty of athletes grow old and finish their careers by being a shell of their former selves. As tennis fans, do we want to see Rafael Nadal play out the rest of his career that way? Maybe Nadal will go a different way and his knowledge of how to win and his experience doing so allow him to beat most opponents. In likely his final year on the ATP tour, let’s hope Nadal makes runs in many tournaments.
At least we know what Nadal will be wearing at the beginning of his comeback. According to Tennis Infinity, Nadal will wear a brightly-colored green t-shirt accentuated with white marks on his chest, green shorts, and NikeCourt Zoom Vapor Cage 3 shoes. So Nadal might not win in Australia, but at least he will look spiffy.