The joy was clearly visible on Rafael Nadal’s face as he returned to the court after almost a year off due to a thigh injury. The Spaniard, along with Mark Lopez, entered the doubles match in Brisbane, and despite the fact that they lost, Nadal’s very presence on the court was considered a victory. Nadal has always been characterized by a desire to win, and often he did not feel joy after defeats. However, now, in his brilliant career, something has changed. Numerous injuries have bothered the Spaniard recently and he admitted that this could affect his future. “To say this might be the last season is difficult because you can’t predict the future 100 percent,” Nadal said at a news conference ahead of the doubles match at the Brisbane International.
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Will the 2024 season be Rafael Nadal’s last?
This will probably be my last time playing here in Australia. But if I play here next year, don’t tell me: ‘You said this will be your last season,’ because I didn’t say that,” Nadal explained with a smile. The real test of his comeback came when he entered singles competition for the first time since his second-round defeat at the Australian Open in January. The 37-year-old faced off in the first round of the Brisbane tournament against Dominic Thiem, another Grand Slam title winner who qualified and is also facing long-term wrist injury issues. The Spaniard easily dealt with his opponent with a score of 7-5, 6-1.
Nadal enters the new season ranked 672nd. These are very low rankings for a player who has spent a record 912 weeks in the top 10 since April 2005. Consequently, his expectations are lowered. “I can’t predict how the next six months will feel,” Nadal explained. “I cannot say that my body will allow me to experience the joy of tennis in the same way as I have done for the last 20 years. I’m not sure if I can be competitive. “I’m not talking about winning the biggest tournaments, I’m talking about feeling happy, being able to compete and feeling like I can go out on the court and compete with anyone.”
Despite modest expectations for Nadal, the environment is radically different compared to his great rival, Novak Djokovic. Djokovic began his season by winning the United Cup team tournament, arriving in Australia after a successful season where he won three of the four major tournaments, including the final ATP Finals. He is once again the player to target as he chases his eleventh Australian Open title. The 36-year-old world number one began his campaign in Serbia with a 6-3, 6-2 win over China’s Zhang Zhizhen. “It’s great to be back in Perth,” Djokovic said. “The New Year is coming soon, so I appreciate the opportunity to celebrate it here on the court with you. It’s been 10 years since my last visit to Perth and the venue is one of the most impressive, inside and out, I’ve ever played. “Australia has always been a special place for me. This is where I won the most Grand Slam victories in Melbourne and I always enjoy coming back here. Playing in Perth is what I’ve been missing.”
Nadal unexpectedly withdrew from the Australian Open
After losing to Jordan Thompson in the quarterfinals of the Brisbane tournament, Rafael Nadal unexpectedly announced that he would not take part in the Australian Open 2024. Nadal, 37, will not be able to take part in the Australian Open 2024 due to a new injury, making this the fourth tournament “major”, which he misses in a row. “After arriving in Melbourne, I had an MRI which showed I had a microtear in the muscle, although not in the same location as the previous injury, so that’s good news. At the moment I’m not ready to compete at full capacity and endure five-hour matches. I’m healing to Spain to meet with a doctor, begin treatment and rest,” Nadal said. The experienced Spanish tennis player almost completely missed the 2023 season due to injury. A hip injury suffered at last year’s Australian Open forced him to undergo a lengthy rehabilitation. Back on court in Brisbane, Nadal reached the quarter-finals but must now focus on recovery again.
In light of recent events, it is highly likely that the 2024 season will be the last of his career for the legendary Spanish player.