Barcelona, November 16 (IANS) Although the 2023 ATP Tour season is yet to reach its conclusion, with the Nitto ATP Finals nearing their final rounds in Turin, Rafael Nadal already has his mind on 2024. After a return to training a few weeks ago, having not competed since the Australian Open and undergone an operation on his iliopsoas, the Spanish star has now confirmed that he will play again. He has been working tirelessly toward that goal in recent months.
“I’m well, training, and happy,” said the 22-time Grand Slam champion on Wednesday. “I’m at a good stage of my life. Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I’m still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good,” he explained.
“We know that the pain will never disappear, but I’ve taken a step forward,” said the Spaniard. “That’s a lot for me. Talking about tennis is another matter altogether, as is the level I’ll be able to play at. But the steps toward trying to play again have been big and positive, which is what we have been fighting for for several months. I’m confident I’ll be able to say something more specific in the coming weeks.”
After picking up an injury at the Australian Open and then withdrawing from several tournaments, including Roland Garros, Nadal underwent an operation on 2 June in Barcelona and started his long recovery period, from which he is now starting to emerge.
“I’ve always maintained hope that I would play again,” said Nadal. “How much? At what level? It’s difficult to answer that. I never lost hope I’d play. Things gradually become clear with the passing of the weeks. At the moment I’m on the right track.”
Nadal, 37, said he has not set himself the loftiest goals, like playing in the Paris Olympics or going for Novak Djokovic’s Grand Slam record (24 compared to the Mallorcan’s 22). It is not about that; it is a case of a return that would represent the personal achievement of having recovered when there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
“I haven’t played for a year,” reiterated the Spaniard. “Personal success is often more rewarding than general success. The hope is that I’ll play again. You never know what will happen. My gut says it will be very difficult to get back to a good level of tennis. If I wasn’t hopeful of trying to be competitive, I wouldn’t be doing everything I’ve done over the past months at my age and after a long career,” he added.
“The years pass by. My hope is that I will play again, and that is hugely satisfying to me on a personal level. I won’t win more Grand Slams than Djokovic, but I will have the chance to enjoy myself again.”
An opportunity to see the Spaniard compete on a tennis court again seems to be drawing ever nearer.