When will Rafael Nadal make a comeback? Here is what we know

Kevin Palmer
Rafael Nadal leaves the court
Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after his defeat at the Australian Open

Rafael Nadal will miss the US Open and doubts remain over whether the 22-time Grand Slam legend will return to the court.

Nadal underwent surgery in June in a bid to discover the extent of his hip problem.

The Spanish legend only expected to be out for six to eight weeks with the injury he suffered at the Australian Open in January but his recovery was slower than expected.

Now 37, Nadal has confirmed he hopes to return to action for a final year on the tour in 2024, but is that target realistic?


Nadal spoke at a press conference as he outlined the final few chapters of his career, with a detailed plan in place that will depend on his physical conditions.

“My goal and my ambition is to try and stop and give myself an opportunity to enjoy the next year that will probably be my last year in the professional tour,” Nadal told reporters.

“That is my idea but I can’t say 100 per cent it will be like this, but my idea and my motivation is to try to enjoy and say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important for me.

“To enjoy being competitive and something that today is not possible. I believe, if I keep going now, I will not be able to make it happen.

“After a couple of years that in terms of results have been positive because I was able to win a couple of grand slams and important tournaments, the real situation is I was not able to enjoy my diary work.

“Since after the pandemic, my body was not able to do the practice or diary work in a good way so I was not able to enjoy the practice and competition because too many problems, too many times having to stop for physical conditions and too many days off not practising because of too much pain.

“I need to stop for a while. My position is to stop and I don’t know when I can come back to the practice court.

“I will stop for a while, maybe one month, maybe two months, maybe three months. I am a guy who doesn’t like to predict too much the future. I am following what I believe is the right thing to do for my body and my personal happiness.

“I don’t want to say one thing and do the other. It is better to hold the options open and see what is the best calendar possible.

“I would like to play the things that are important for me and of course the Olympic Games is an important competition and one I hope to play. Will it be my last or not? I cannot say.”


Nadal’s uncle and former coach Toni Nadal gave an update on Rafa’s condition in an interview with ClayTenis.

“Rafael is 37 years old and the years are heavy,” he said. “What I know, because I’ve talked to him, is that Rafael wants to come back and wants to recover fully. If he recovers fully, I think he’ll want to keep going.

“We’ll see because he has to get results, which won’t be easy because when you lose your ranking everything becomes more difficult because you have to compete with the best ones faster.

“So you’ll have to play more days better and you’ll have to play tough games more often,”

These comments did not give any extra insight into how long Nadal will need to recover, but it is clear that we won’t see him play again in 2023.

It is also clear that he has yet to start his recovery, as there have been no images of the Spanish great practicing at his Academy in Mallorca.

Nadal has been spending time away with his wife and young child in recent weeks and is expected to start hitting balls again as he prepares to get fit for the Australian Open in January.


Will we ever see Nadal on a tennis court again?

Nadal has expressed a wish to end his tennis career on his own terms and that does not mean allowing injury to defeat him, but that desire may not become a reality.

This legendary champion has been in control of most aspects of his remarkable career, but he is now in a phase of his story that he has no control over.

There is no doubt that he will attempt to make a comeback in the coming months, but there is no guarantee that Nadal will reach the physical levels required to compete at the highest level.

Former world No 1 Andy Murray appears to be content to continue playing tennis even though he is no longer challenging for the biggest titles in the sport.

Nadal has confirmed he will not follow that path in his final days in tennis, so don’t expect him to show up in Australia next year unless he feels he can challenge for the title.

Sadly, there is a chance we will never see one of the game’s all-time greats in a professional tennis match again, but the truly great champions have unique powers of recovery and you write off a legend of Nadal’s calibre at your peril.

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