One might rightly question exactly how much longer Rafael Nadal will be playing tennis in 2024. Nadal injured his hip in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open and he eventually had surgery to repair the problem. After rehab and lots of practice, Nadal prepared himself for the start of the 2024 tennis year.
On Friday, Nadal was bounced out of the Brisbane International by Jordan Thompson in three sets. Nadal won the first set and had match point in the second-set tie-breaker, but Thompson fought back, won the second set, and then decisively controlled the third set in a 5-7 7-6(6) 6-3 victory.
But the worst part of the match for Rafael Nadal was that he was forced to take a medical timeout late in the third set. He was not noticeably limping, but Nadal clearly was not the same player in the third set he was in the first. Maybe he just ran out of steam in the Australian heat and not playing but two matches in the last year.
Rafael Nadal not completely sure he will be ready for the Australian Open
Post-match in a press conference, however, Nadal was not perfectly sure he would be ready for the Australian Open. The first Grand Slam of the year starts next Sunday, January 14, and runs through January 28. Nadal's fitness cannot be as good as normal because he hasn't been able to play a lot of tennis, so expecting him to play a bunch of best-of-five matches and make a deep run in Melbourne might be too tough.
But his hip is the main concern. Nadal said in the press conference, "I hope to have the chance to be practicing next week and to play Melbourne. Honestly, I am not 100 percent sure of anything now."
What a depressing way to put it. We can assume that as great of an athlete as Nadal is, not winning tournaments because of a long-term injury is emotionally difficult for him. For tennis fans, we want to see Rafael Nadal play well, too. But if Rafael Nadal wants to play deep into 2024, not playing in the Australian Open could be a wise move.