Rafael Nadal can return to ‘the highest level,’ claims Carlos Alcaraz coach
Juan Carlos Ferrero believes Rafael Nadal will return to the ‘highest level’ once he works himself back from injury.
Nadal only played four matches in 2023, with them all coming in January before a hip injury ended his season and put his career in doubt.
Fears that he would be forced to retire have since been alleviated, and Nadal has confirmed that he now fully ‘believes’ he will be back on court next season, although he has been careful to try to manage expectations about whether he will reach his previous level again.
Ferrero is the coach of world number two and reigning Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz, and he says Nadal’s famed warrior mentality could push him back to the very top.
“He will surely return wanting to compete because he has a competitive animal inside him,” Ferrero told Marca.
“I see it as logical that he does not see himself competing with Djokovic, or against the best right now, because he has been out of competition for a long time and it is always difficult to get started.
“But once he is on the track, his mentality of competing at his best will not change. In the  Australian Open that he won against [Daniil] Medvedev, it was thought that he had less chances and he won.
“Those who are very, very good always come up with something different from the others and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them at the highest level again.
“How long? Whatever it gives him physically, but I don’t think he’ll be satisfied with winning two games.”
Will Rafael Nadal play the Australian Open?
Rafael Nadal is playing his cards close to his chest, as he always does when he is working his way back through injury. He has always been reluctant to return before his confidence in his body has returned in full, and time pressure is considered unhelpful to that goal.
He has also rubbished comments from Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley, who claimed the 22-time major winner had assured him he would be back for Melbourne.
“There is nothing to all this,” he said about Tiley’s claim. “I understand the interest of the news but in the end when this happens, or when I know I’m coming back, I’ll say it.
“When I know what I’ll do, I’ll be the first to tell you anything.”
However, Nadal has also had enough confidence in his recovery to release videos of increasingly intense practice sessions, so you’d have to say there is a good chance of a return down under.
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