Rafael Nadal hasn't played a tournament since the 2023 Australian Open yet he is attempting to be back in normal form by the 2024 Aussie Open. As he is 37 years old, he has age going against him as well, not just health. But after being hurt in the second round in Melbourne, Nadal decided to have surgery this past summer to correct his injured hip.
But there are likely few expecting Rafael Nadal to make a run at the first Grand Slam of the year. Even Rafael Nadal's uncle, Toni, has said the hope is simply that Nadal looks competitive in the early part of the year. The likelihood is that he will not be battling for tournament titles until at least when the clay court season begins in March.
Former ATP No. 1 and current Holger Rune coach, Boris Becker, said in an interview with Eurosport recently that not only will Nadal fail to make a run at the Australian Open, but that Nadal "has to suffer" in the early matches of his return. That sounds extremely harsh, of course. But Becker had a very good reason for saying what he did.
Would tennis fans want to watch Rafael Nadal suffer early in 2024?
According to the Eurosport website, "But he has to play first: he will only gain match fitness and match practice by playing in matches...he has to suffer a little so that he gets better in March, April, until he can play his best game in May."
The word "suffer" is the concern there. Becker, of course, speaks English as a second language, but he also can be measured with the words he chooses. To suffer would mean watching Nadal play matches where he clearly looks creaky and gets beaten by lesser players easily, most likely. Do we want to watch that or would it have been better to see Nadal simply retire and we have fond memories of how great he used to be?
Nadal has been open about 2024 likely being his final year. The hope would be while he might struggle early in the year, he improves a great deal, and is in great shape, but the time the French Open begins in May. Nadal winning the clay-court major for the 15th time and then immediately retiring would make for a great film. A more probable outcome would be Nadal playing into the summer and participating in the Olympics where he teams up with Carlos Alcaraz to play doubles.