Rafael Nadal - US Open 2022

Rafael Nadal’s coach reveals ‘real fear’ upon Grand Slam return

Rafael Nadal is nearing his return to the ATP Tour after almost a year on the sidelines, but the Spaniard’s coach Carlos Moya has revealed his ‘doubt’ ahead of the Australian Open.

Nadal has been out of action since the 2023 Australian Open, where he picked up a psoas tear in his second round defeat to Mackenzie McDonald.

In his absence, the 22-time Grand Slam champion has had to miss Roland Garros and has fallen outside the top 600 for the first time since 2002.

Nadal is now focussing on his upcoming return at the Brisbane International, and Moya has detailed his player’s progress ahead of his long-awaited comeback.

“Rafa is going to go from training, which he is doing very well, to competing. And it is impossible to have the same conditions in training as in a match,” explained the 1998 Roland Garros champion.

He continued, “Playing the best of five sets, win, rest, return to the court two days later. That is the doubt I have right now, especially for a Grand Slam. But we have time. If the Australian Open started tomorrow, it would be a real fear.

“There is still a month left, a tournament before in Brisbane, demanding training. I think all of this will put him in a position to be able to endure it. But right now that’s my fear.”

Moya has been coaching Nadal since 2016, winning eight Grand Slam titles and eight Masters 1000 crowns together in that time.

However, due to Nadal’s ranking drop it will be the first time that he will not be seeded and could face anyone from the first round of tournaments.

And Moya has spoken about the threat that poses to his player, “Although he can play using the protected ranking in his first nine tournaments upon his return, that will not prevent him from being able to play against very strong opponents from the first round.

“It is clear that the draws are going to play an important role in the return, especially because we want him to play games. I have never been of the thought that Rafa needs rhythm because he is too good for that, but now the situation is different. We are interested in him playing games, that he can win them to complete that level.”

Nadal has openly admitted that 2024 is likely to be his final year on tour, but Moya has suggested that it is too early to make any definitive statements about retirement.

“Leaving a sport that you’ve done all your life, that gets you hooked by that special adrenaline, is very complicated,” said Moya, who retired in 2010.

“He [Nadal] doesn’t want to close the door. If everything goes well, and he endures, why not continue? If he enjoys it, has a good time and it’s what he likes to do, why not? But there are too many unknowns right now to say where we will be in a year. Anything can happen.”

Nadal will officially make his comeback to the ATP Tour at the Brisbane International, that begins on Sunday 31st December, before heading to the Australian Open.

Inside the baseline…

There are many awaited returns ahead of the 2024 season, but it is difficult to argue that there are anymore anticipated than that of Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard would undergone arthroscopic surgery in his time away and would not be coming back unless he genuinely thought he could compete against the best. The prospect of a first round Australian Open match between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic is almost unbelievable, but would draw eyes from across the globe.

READ NEXT: Novak Djokovic ‘hated for beating Nadal and Federer,’ claims top coach

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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.