‘At Rafael Nadal’s age everything is possible’, says Roger Federer’s former coach

Rafael Nadal on court

Jose Higueras has expressed that he is “cautiously optimistic” for Rafael Nadal as the legendary Spaniard prepares for his return to action next year.

The esteemed coach believes that “everything is possible” for Nadal at his age and recognised the 37-year-old could either be able to play frequently, or suffer another injury setback.

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

The former world No 1 underwent surgery on the issue in June, having initially expected to be out for only six to eight weeks. The Mallorcan was forced to postpone his proposed comeback during the clay-court season.

The 37-year-old claimed his 22nd and most recent Grand Slam title at the 2022 French Open with a straight-set victory over Casper Ruud in the final.

Speaking on an episode of Courtside: The US Open podcast, Higueras discussed his Spanish compatriot’s prospects of making his comeback at the 2024 Australian Open.

“Obviously, it will be a great situation if we see Rafa coming back at the Australian [Open] and then being able to play a good amount of the schedule through the year. At the same time, I think Rafa is fully realistic and cautious,” explained the 70-year-old.

“I understand that he has only been hitting balls for a couple of weeks and not full work-outs. Yes, progressively, he is getting his body into the workout mode. Practising and playing matches are two different things.

“I think, at Rafa’s age everything is possible. It is possible that he comes back and is able to play a good amount through the schedule. It is possible that he comes back and he has another setback. So, I am cautiously optimistic.”

Higueras has coached a host of top players, including: Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Sergi Bruguera, Michael Chang, Carlos Moya, Todd Martin, Guillermo Coria and Dimitry Tursunov. He became the director of coaching for elite player development at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in 2008.

The Spaniard is a former world No 6 who won 16 ATP titles and reached two French Open semi-finals before retiring in 1986.

Higueras recalled what he appreciated about Federer from his time working with the great Swiss in an interview with Tennis.com earlier this year.

“I was always amazed by how well he treated people behind the scenes, at the hotel, in the car. It’s easy to be nice when people are watching, but he was like that when no one else was around,” he said.

Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley claimed last week that Nadal had told him he would compete at the 2024 Australian Open in January.

“We can reveal exclusively here that Rafa will be back. He’s been off for most of the year, and in talking to him over the last few days he confirmed he will be back, which we’re really excited about. That’s awesome,” said Tiley.

Nadal, though, is yet to confirm when he will make his return and admitted this week he is still experiencing pain during training.

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