Rafael Nadal has been told that he won’t be able to beat Novak Djokovic when he returns to tennis. The 22-time Grand Slam champion is making his long-awaited comeback at the Brisbane International after spending almost a year on the sidelines. There is still some uncertainty over how Nadal’s body will hold up and Express Sport readers believe that the Spaniard won’t be able to compete with long-time rival Djokovic anymore.
Nadal will be back in action in January for what could be his last year on the tennis tour. The 37-year-old picked up a left psoas injury at the 2023 Australian Open and failed to mount a comeback for the clay swing, instead ending his season and having surgery. There were months of uncertainty following the operation until Nadal finally confirmed that he would be able to return to the tour.
Ever since the Spaniard made his comeback announcement, fans have been hoping to see one last instalment of his rivalry with Djokovic. The world No 1 even shared his wish to face Nadal again, saying: “I think it would be nice for the sport to have at least one more match between Nadal and me. That’s the biggest rivalry in terms of the amount of matches played that this sport ever had. Hopefully that can happen.”
But another showdown with the 24-time Grand Slam champion could be bad news for Nadal, as Express Sport readers are questioning whether he’ll be capable of defeating his biggest rival anymore. Asked whether the Spaniard could still beat Djokovic, 59 per cent of voters said no.
The pair have faced off 59 times in the past with the Serb just leading their head-to-head 30-29. And a round 60th meeting could be a fitting way to end their rivalry, even if the match is more one-sided than their previous meetings.
Nadal himself has already downplayed expectations for his comeback as he shared a series of video updates on X (formerly known as Twitter) in the lead-up to the Brisbane International. “I think I am ready. I don’t know at what level, I don’t know what to expect, I have no idea, but I don’t care right now,” the 37-year-old said in one clip.
“I’m coming back in a tournament that I’ve played in the past, that I’m familiar with, a 250 tournament. I know it’s a difficult tournament but I hope to be ready to compete. I don’t aspire to anything else, just to be competitive.”
Back in May, when Nadal shut down his season following a failed comeback attempt, he admitted that he would likely retire in 2024. And the 92-time title winner doubled down on those comments in another comeback video.
Earlier this month, the Spaniard explained: “There are many chances that it will be my last year without any doubt. There are chances that it may only be half a year, there are possibilities that it may be a full year, there are possibilities that we may not be able to reach all that…”
Although he will be enjoying each tournament as if it were his last, Nadal is still refusing to commit to a retirement in case his return goes better than expected. “I do not want to announce it because in the end, I do not know what can happen. And I have to give myself the opportunity not to say one thing and then I can be a slave of what I have said. I think it is going to be like that but I can’t be 100 per cent sure,” he added.