Rafael Nadal - Australian Open 2023

Rafael Nadal reveals his ‘first realistic option to be back on court’

Rafael Nadal has provided an update on his comeback status, after he shut down the Australian Open tournament director’s ‘confirmation’ that he would definitely be returning to Melbourne next year.

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

This has lead to the Spaniard having to withdraw from his beloved Roland Garros for the first time since 2004, as well as dropping outside of the world’s top 200.

The 22-time major winner underwent arthroscopic surgery back in June, and has since been recovering in hopes of a potential final season on the ATP Tour in 2024.

Nadal has been releasing some footage of himself returning to the practice court as of late, but was quick to shut down Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley claiming that he would definitely be at the first major of 2024.

Last week, Tiley told ‘The Today Show’ on Channel Nine in Australia, “We can reveal exclusively here that Rafa will be back.

“He’s been off for most of the year, and in talking to him over the last few days, he confirmed he will be back, which we’re really excited about, the champion of 2022. That’s awesome.”

However, Nadal was not quite as confident when responding to Tiley on X (formerly known as Twitter), “I appreciate the vote of confidence from the Australian Open… I am practising every day and working hard to come back asap.”

And the 37-year-old has followed up on this at an event in Madrid, “My first realistic option to be back on the professional court would be January in Australia.

“But right now, I really can’t confirm something I don’t know. Nothing has changed in the last few weeks except for the fact that I’m training a bit more than before, which is an accomplishment for me and my mental health.”

Despite returning to training, Nadal admitted that he still feels pain on court, “I’m not training without pain. I’m in less pain than I used to be, but I’m still in pain. However, this pain allows me to do more and more things eventually. Things would be different if I had zero pain. I could give you a date for my return if I had zero pain because I would have time to prepare myself for that.”

The former No.1 continued to speak about the pressure and expectations he feels about returning to the ATP Tour, “It’s always been about my very own pressure. My own pressure and self-demand is beyond yours, but I still appreciate it.

“My demand from myself has always been big, and at this point of my career, I really do my best. My limitations are obvious now, but when they’re gone – which I hope will be soon – we’ll talk about a different kind of pressure.”

Inside the baseline…

Nadal is clearly and quite smartly being very cautious about the words he is using when speaking about a return to the tour, as he will not want to rush and risk making his health any worse in the long-term. The Australian Open appears to be the aim, and if he does return in Melbourne he will want to rewrite the memories from earlier this year.

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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.