Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

What to expect from Rafael Nadal after a long injury layoff | Tennis News

By admin Dec5,2023

Rafael Nadal stood still for few seconds, staring at his box, then broke into a smile that only depicted disbelief, a sheer disbelief at the absolute madness that had unravelled at Melbourne Park on that January night of 2022, a sheer disbelief at the hurdles he overcame over the last six months or more, en route to his long-awaited reunion with the Australian Open title. Nadal then dropped down on his knees, his face buried in his palm as the packed Rod Laver Arena arena turned into a screaming full house.

Spaniard Rafael Nadal, absent from the courts for almost a year with a hip injury, announced on December 1, 2023 that he would return to competition in Brisbane next month ahead of the Australian Open(AFP)

About six months before that magical night in Melbourne, Nadal was on crutches with his left foot bandaged. He had ended his 2021 season early to undergo a foot surgery for an issue that troubled him all his career. There were times when the pain was so excruciating that he could barely even walk in his room. The recovery period was tougher than he had imagined and it eventually pushed him to edge of even considering retirement. That was one and a half month ahead of his departure for Adelaide, where he had won the ATP 250 title before travelling to Melbourne.

Stay tuned with breaking news on HT Channel on Facebook. Join Now

On that Sunday night, Nadal endured another monumental battle, which even by his stature was mission impossible. Despite Nadal by nature being a front-runner than a counter-puncher, come-from-behind wins and fighting till the last breath have been some of the phrases that has defined his career. And that is exactly what the Spaniard pulled off after going two sets down while also trailing in the third with the AI win predictor giving him just 4 per cent chance of a comeback. Craig O’Shannessy, a tennis analyst who worked extensively with Novak Djokovic, perhaps summed up Nadal’s strategy perfectly saying, “One of the greatest strategies of all time is to simply hang around. When things are not going your way, just hang around. Don’t go away.”

From standing on the verge of drawing curtains on his illustrious career, Nadal followed up his Australian Open win with one of his best shows in a calendar year which included a 20-match unbeaten streak in the hardcourt season, reclaiming his French Open throne and a 22-1 record in Grand Slams. Would it be a lie if one thinks Nadal cannot pull off a similar when he marks his return to tennis in the first week of January in Brisbane?

Unlike in 2021, Nadal had his 2023 calendar cut short much earlier owing to a hip injury he incurred at Australian Open. He looked for a return in the clay court season, but failed to recover in time which led him relinquishing his shot at a possible 15th French Open haul. Later in June, shortly after turning 37, Nadal underwent an arthroscopic surgery for the injured left hip flexor and spent the remainder of the year rehabilitating. But before going under the knife, at an emotional presser at his academy in Manocar, Nadal promised a return in 2024, leaving world tennis hopeful. And as Andy Dufresne of Hollywood classic Shawshank Redemption said: “Hope is the best of things and no good things ever dies.”

On a rather quite evening of December 1, world tennis was sent into euphoria as Nadal officially confirmed his return date as first week of January with Brisbane International as his comeback event before heading to Australian Open.

What to expect from Nadal after a long injury layoff?

Unlike 2021, where his return seemed more surprising with Nadal staying away from social media, leaving fans to their own imagination and speculation, since September this year, internet has been flooded with videos of the Spaniard’s practice routines. And with each passing day, the 22-time Grand Slam winner has been looking fitter. The backhand seemed sharp as usual while the run-around-forehands looked lethal. How can you not think about another “Miracle in Melbourne” or a swan song at the Roland Garros, or a dream pairing with Carlos Alcaraz to claim an Olympic gold?

However, Nadal admitted that he has lower expectations for when he returns to action after a year out. “I have been afraid to announce things because in the end it’s a year without competing and it’s a hip operation. But what worries me the most is not the hip, it’s everything else,” he said in a video posted on Instagram on Monday. “I think I’m ready and I trust and hope that things go well and that it gives me the opportunity to enjoy myself on the court.”

Calling it an “unexplored terrain”, Nadal emphasised that he knows things may be different after so much time without competing.

“I expect from myself not to expect anything. This is the truth. To have the ability not to demand myself what I have demanded myself throughout my career,” he added. “I believe I’m in a different moment, in a different situation and in an unexplored terrain. I have internalised what I have had throughout my life, which is to demand myself the maximum, and right now what I really hope is to be able not to do that, not to demand the maximum, to accept that things are going to be very difficult at the beginning and to give myself the necessary time and forgive myself if things go wrong at the beginning, which is a very big possibility.”

A return from injury is always difficult for any athlete. But for a player who will be back in action after 348 fays, the longest he has been on the sidelines in his injury-laden career, things might just be ten folds difficult. Much of Nadal’s Australian Open fate will depend on his show in Brisbane, although a Grand Slam event, in a best-of-five sets battle is far more gruesome. Expectations of a title win in Melbourne will be rather be absurd, especially amid the presence of Djokovic, a resurgent Jannik Sinner and Alcaraz, but one could surely expect things to slowly pick up for Nadal, who would definitely want to be in his best shape for Paris, which will host the Roland Garros and Olympics.

By admin

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *