‘We should never rule him out’ – Rafael Nadal backed to be ‘very competitive’ in comeback

Delight for Rafael Nadal

Spanish tennis great Conchita Martinez has backed Rafael Nadal to have a “very competitive” 2024 season “if he is fit” when he makes his comeback from injury. 

The 1994 Wimbledon champion asserted that Nadal should never be ruled out because “he always surprises us” and addressed whether he would retire if he won the French Open.

Nadal has not competed since suffering a hip injury in his second round loss to Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open in January.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion underwent surgery on the issue in June, having initially expected to be out for only six to eight weeks. He was forced to postpone his proposed comeback during the clay-court season.

The 37-year-old won his most recent major crown at the 2022 French Open, defeating Casper Ruud in the final. Nadal also triumphed at the Australian Open last year, coming back from two sets down to edge Daniil Medvedev in an epic final, but has largely been hampered by various injury issues since.

In an interview with Clay, Martinez discussed Nadal’s prospects for his proposed comeback in what could be his final season on tour.

“Well, he said it was going to be a farewell year in the tournaments he wants, and that’s the way it has to be. Whenever Rafa has had injuries he has always got up and come back stronger, he has won important tournaments. I think that’s going to be his goal,” assessed the former world No 2.

“But with injuries we can’t fight, I hope he recovers. He is in the best hands, especially with doctor [Angel Ruiz] Cotorro. I have no doubt that he is doing the right things, they are not going to take any risks. If he is fit, he will have a very competitive year.

“If he doesn’t feel that way, we’ll see, then he will focus on the tournaments that really matter to him, which will be Roland Garros and some previous ones. Hopefully he will come back stronger. We should never rule him out, he always surprises us.”

Martinez also addressed the possibility of her Spanish compatriot retiring if he wins a record-extending 15th French Open crown in 2024.

“It can be. I was sure he wouldn’t [keep playing] in 2022. Then he won and kept playing. The following year I see it more feasible than other years. I hadn’t thought about that (the Olympics), so he doesn’t retire if he wins Roland Garros (laughs),” added the 33-time WTA titlist.

“He is a player who loves to play for his country. He has always been committed, he is a champion several times with Spain in the Davis Cup, he won an Olympic gold and has played in many games. Maybe Paris 2024 is in his plans.”

READ MORE: Rafael Nadal explains how he ‘disconnected from everything’ during tennis absence