Tennis fans might be in for a Rafael Nadal surprise

Nadal has hinted 2024 could be his final year playing professional tennis.

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It is hard to quit something one is good at especially if that person is young enough to keep doing whatever it is they do. In the case of Rafael Nadal, he is only 37 years old. One of his fellow Big 3 players, Roger Federer, played until he was 40 years old. So what would make Nadal truly quit playing now?

Injuries, of course. In the second round of the 2023 Australian Open, Nadal injured his hip, tried rehab to get back in shape, but then opted for surgery when the rehab did not take. He missed all of 2023 after the Aussie Open. He returned at the start of 2024 to play in the Brisbane International but then hurt the same hip again, though not as badly.

Nadal has not played since the Brisbane event but he is set to return on March 3 to play countryman Carlos Alcaraz in the Netflix Slam. This is a huge money-making exhibition both for Netflix and the players and since there is no real stress in winning the match the toll on Nadal's body should be less. Playing in such a match should help Nadal prepare for the first Masters 1000 of 2024, at Indian Wells, a few days after the Netflix Slam.

Rafael Nadal could continue playing longer than expected

But what happens after the exhibition against Alcaraz? Former top-three player and fellow Spaniard David Ferrer has an idea. According to a recent interview with Marca, Ferrer believes Rafael Nadal could continue playing into 2025.

Ferrer told the site, "Yes, without a doubt. Knowing Rafa a little or a lot, if he does not have physical injuries, I am convinced that he will be competitive. It was already shown in the first week of the year in Brisbane that he was at a very high level without hardly competing. If he doesn't have any injuries he will be competitive and if he is competitive, he will continue for another year."

Of course, the key is Nadal staying healthy. Even before the 22-time Grand Slam winner was forced to drop out of the 2023 Australian Open, he had dealt with various injuries. His playing style, including a forehand with heavy topspin, does not lend itself to a player holding up consistently from year to year once a player gets a bit older. While Novak Djokovic's game is more measured and efficient, Nadal's is one of strain and power.

Still, let's hope Ferrer is correct. Tennis fans are likely not ready to say goodbye to Rafa. Now we just need to hope he goes out his own way instead of having another injury dictate the end of Nadal's career.

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