Rafael Nadal addressed the talk concerning his return from injury, and dampened those hoping for the Spaniard to guarantee his place in next year’s Australian Open. While the Spaniard is not ruling out the possibility of competing in Melbourne, he admits there is still some way to go before making the announcement regarding his return. The 37-year-old has not played since this year’s tournament.
Rafael Nadal explained that appearing at next year’s Australian Open remains a target, but was keen to manage expectations ahead of his hotly anticipated return.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion has not played since competing in the first Grand Slam of this year in January, when he was beaten in the second round by Mackenzie McDonald.
Nadal suffered a hip injury in that shock defeat to the American, and subsequently missed all three of this year’s remaining Grand Slams.
Excitement levels would go into overdrive when the Australian Open CEO Craig Tiley claimed that Nadal would make his return in next year’s tournament.
He told Nine Network’s ‘The Today Show’: “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, those claims are still premature according to Nadal, who was speaking at an event in Madrid.
“My first realistic option to be back on the professional court would be January in Australia,” he said.
“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.”
Nadal confirmed he was still feeling pain when training.
“I’m not training without pain. I’m in less pain than I used to be, but I’m still in pain,” he said. “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 Spaniard has since seen Novak Djokovic surpass his Grand Slam record, after the Serb won his 23rd and 24th majors at the French Open and US Open respectively.
A lack of action has seen the 37-year-old plummet down to 243rd in the ATP rankings, but Nadal insists his hunger remains as strong as ever to end a long absence away from competitive action.
He said: “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.”