Rafael Nadal assesses his hopes of a comeback in compelling interview

Kevin Palmer
Rafael Nadal interview on Spanish TV
Rafael Nadal interview on Spanish TV

Rafael Nadal has given his first comprehensive interview since taking a break from tennis earlier this year, with the tennis legend admitting he is still a long way from making a return to competitive action.

Nadal underwent surgery that forced him to pull out of the French Open and he held a press conference in May suggesting he is planning to make a comeback and play one final year in 2024.

The slow nature of his recovery from a hip problem sustained at last January’s Australian Open has fuelled rumours that Nadal may never return to action.

Yet in a sit-down interview with Movistar+, Nadal answered many of the questions that have been swirling around him in recent months, as he confirmed he is still hopeful of playing tournament tennis again.

Confirming he still only training for 40 minutes a day on the court and golf is the only competitive sport he can play at the moment, he insisted any comeback at next year’s Australian Open or French Open may happen with limited expectations.

“My dream is to play again, to be competitive again, not to win at Roland-Garros or in Australia,” said Nadal.

“At this time in my life, I am very far away (from challenging for major titles). I am not saying it is impossible because things in sport change very quickly.

“But since Indian Wells last year, it has been a hard year and a half, with no peace of mind at all. The results mask the reality of day-to-day life.

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“Without surgery, I was not going to recover by stopping for a long time. I made the decision and apparently, it turned out well.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do in 2024, because because of the way I am, I can’t be clear.

“My way of facing the year changes depending on the objectives. I don’t even have the need to respond to myself. My hope is in two months to know how and where I am,

“Yes, I can play but I am not in a position to win at Roland-Garros because maybe I would like a farewell tour. These are answers that I cannot give now.”

Nadal went on to hint he may see the Olympic Games in Paris as a target to try and add a finishing florist to his remarkable career, but for now, he is only able to train with limited intensity at his Academy in Mallorca.

“I can only hit with maximum caution, without moving, without the intensity to which I am accustomed,” he added.

“I have to contain myself all the time. I know I have to be careful. I have experienced many times of recovery and It’s always boring, but it hasn’t taken away my focus and attention from doing it day by day.

“Luckily, I’ve been able to play golf for weeks now. It’s the only thing I can compete in today. It distracts me and for me, it’s necessary to compete.”

It was a fascinating interview with one of the game’s all-time greats and what was clear at the end was he is no closer to understanding whether he will be able to make a successful return to tennis.

His army of fans around the world can hold out hope that the 37-year-old still has some magic moments to add to his glorious collection.

Yet there are as many doubts as there are expectations over a successful return for Nadal in the new year.