Even though Rafael Nadal is attempting a comeback from major hip surgery, he might still call 2024 his last year playing. He has hinted heavily that would be the case. Much of that might depend on how the first part of the year goes for the Spanish great.
While many, including Rafael Nadal's uncle, Toni, think the point of the comeback might just be to show Rafael can be competitive again, for any athlete who has had the high-end success Nadal has had to simply be competitive and not compete for titles might be difficult. Great players expect a certain amount of success and not maintaining that same level can be disappointing and humbling.
Do tennis fans want Nadal simply to show up to tournaments he won't win and be bounced out consistently in the fourth round or quarterfinals? Playing out the string of a great career is difficult to watch. Nadal probably won't want that to happen. He's also talented enough still that he should be dangerous at certain events such as the French Open.
Rafael Nadal needs to have a positive outlook during his comeback
But Alex Corretja, former top 10 ATP player, believes instead of Nadal getting ready to no longer be great that Nadal should think he will fight for Grand Slam titles. In a recent interview with Eurosport, Corretja said, "I think (Nadal) is at a point in his career where he has to find a way to play with a kind of joy. I understand that he is a winner and he likes to succeed but it can't be all suffering."
The word "suffer" seems to pop up a lot with Nadal. Recently, former ATP No. 1 and current Holger Rune coach, Boris Becker, said Nadal does need to "suffer" some in his return. The reason for this is because it would force Nadal into getting his body back in the form it needs to be to challenge for titles. Becker knows better than I do, of course, but maybe there should be another word used instead of "suffer."
Rafael Nadal clearly loves to play tennis. He also knows he is near the end of his career. He might simply have so much playing that he finds himself in the finals of several tournaments. That would be what tennis fans would want anyway.