Rafael Nadal - Roland Garros 2022

Rafael Nadal claims he’s ‘a realist’ ahead of the clay court season

Rafael Nadal has detailed his recent withdrawal from Indian Wells, with the Spaniard revealing that he is ‘a realist’ ahead of a scheduled return for the clay court season.

Nadal returned in January after spending nearly a year on the injury sidelines, following obtaining a serious psoas tear at the 2023 Australian Open.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion made his comeback at the Brisbane International, but suffered a setback in the quarter-final against Jordan Thompson.

This led to Nadal withdrawing from the Australian Open, the Qatar Open and most recently Indian Wells, despite travelling to California.

And Nadal has explained the process behind these decisions, “The reality is that I didn’t feel ready to start playing a tournament at this level, with the little training background I had behind me at the level I needed.

“I didn’t want to start a tournament coming from where I came from, with no guarantee of being able to advance to at least the levels that I think I need to demand of myself to try and start a tournament.”

Nadal has been very vocal about the clay court season being the priority, for what is likely to be the final season of his professional career.

The Murcian has started practicing on his most successful surface again, and has revealed how the next planned comeback is going.

“I will do my best to try to start the clay season, which is my goal,” said Nadal. “I am working for that and striving for that goal, but I don’t dare to say anything about what might happen because lately it has been difficult for me to make predictions, unfortunately.

“I’ve not stopped training at any time. I’m trying all the time. I feel fine, I just haven’t managed to follow the schedule I would have liked to. Hopefully things can change, but as you can imagine I can’t say because I don’t know myself.”

The 37-year-old continued, “It doesn’t matter whether I’m optimistic or not; I’m a realist. For the last year and a half or two it’s been impossible for me to compete, so the first objective is to try to compete and I’m going day by day.

“If I had to be optimistic or negative, I probably wouldn’t even be trying. It’s a long time, I have a lot years and a very long career behind me. At the end of the day I try not to be one thing or the other, I try to go day by day, do the work I have to do to give myself opportunities and we’ll see how long we can try.”

Nadal is next entered to play at the Monte Carlo Masters, where he is a record 11-time champion, with the tournament main draw beginning on Sunday 7th April.

Inside the baseline…

The clay court season has always been the priority for Rafael Nadal, in what is looking more and more likely to be the final season of his illustrious career. Hopefully he can have a decent run of tournaments in the upcoming clay court season, having dominated so many of them. It is good that Nadal is being disciplined with his return though, as any more setbacks could call an end to the 2024 season and maybe even his career.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.