Rafael Nadal’s alarming update on his comeback plans puts perspective on his ambitions

Rafael Nadal after a match

Rafael Nadal is preparing to return to action after a year away from the court next month and he has opened up on the challenges he has faced to reach this point in his comeback effort.

When 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal abandoned his plans to play at the French Open in May, he suggested he would do all he could to make a comeback to the sport in 2024 and have ‘one final year’ on the tour.

He had surgery in June and has been gradually building up to a return that he has now announced will be at the Brisbane International, a key warm-up event for the Australian Open, beginning on December 31.

Now the 37-year-old has admitted that ambition has been in the balance for much of the last six months, in a new video posted on his social media networks.

“It’s been a long year in which I’ve gone through many phases, from trying to get back to compete at the clay season, week after week disappointment after disappointment,” said Nadal, who appeared to be a little downbeat in the social media post.

“Then I had to decide to stop and say ‘enough’ and look for a definite solution, which was surgery.

“Since then, everything has been a new horizon, a difficult path, but always with the hope of coming back.

“Of course, there were moments where it seemed impossible that this moment would come, but we’ve maintained the work, spirit and hope and I think I am ready.”

Some have suggested Nadal will be a big contender to win the Australian Open on his return to action, but these latest comments should put some perspective on his realistic ambitions ahead of a return to the court.

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His advancing years suggest he may not be ready to play a full season on the tour and might have to select his tournaments with more caution as he added:

“I have gone through many phases, but I today I think it’s time; I’m coming back in a tournament that I’ve played in the past, that I’m familiar with, a 250 tournament.”

The tennis world will be watching Nadal’s return and expectations will always be high around one of the greatest players ever to pick up a racket.

Yet his uncle and long-time coach Toni has admitted that setting the bar too high for Nadal may not be realistic.

“He has the will to still be here, he loves tennis, he loves competition, he loves the game,” Toni Nadal told RMC

“It’s his dream to play the tournaments he loves one last time. The more he plays, the more competitive he will be.

“We know that his legs aren’t the same as they were 10 years ago, but in his head, nothing has changed. He still has the same determination.”

Nadal’s presence on a tennis court at the start of 2024 confirms he believes he can be competitive once again, as he has made it clear that he would not play again unless he believed he could compete for the biggest titles in the sport.

A Grand Slam-winning return for Nadal in the new year may seem improbable, but the all-time greats of sport have a habit of doing things that are not logical.

You write these champions off at your peril.