(CNN) — Rafael Nadal made his long-awaited injury comeback on Sunday, playing in his first match since January when he took to the court with doubles partner Marc Lopez at the Brisbane International – and he didn’t rule out continuing to play after the 2024 season.
Although the Spanish pair lost 6-4 6-4 to Australians Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson, Nadal unleashed some powerful winners, moving more freely around the court after undergoing hip surgery to treat the injury that forced him to miss most of last season.
The 22-time grand slam champion has battled a series of injuries of late and said in May that 2024 will likely be his last year on tour but, on Sunday, he didn’t rule out continuing past this date.
“The problem about saying it’s going to be my last season is that I can’t predict what’s going on 100% in the future. That’s the thing,” Nadal said ahead of his comeback match, according to Reuters. “That’s why I say probably.
“It’s obvious it’s a high percentage that it’s going to be my last time playing in Australia. But if I’m here next year, don’t tell me, ‘You said it’s going to be your last season,’ because I didn’t say it,” he added.
“You never know what’s going on, you know? I can’t predict how I’m going to be in the next six months. I can’t predict if my body will allow me to enjoy tennis as much as I enjoyed the past 20 years.”
Some of Nadal’s competitors, including Holger Rune and Andy Murray, have noted the “intensity” with which he is playing, but the 37-year-old played down their comments.
“If you ask my colleagues how I feel, they will not come here and say, ‘Rafa is playing like disaster’,” he said, per the Brisbane International website.
“I feel what they said (does) have not much value because, of course, you ask me how they’re playing, I will say they’re playing great too. You will not talk negative things about colleagues.”
Nadal will make his singles comeback on Tuesday, facing former world No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the first round at the Brisbane International, a tournament often used by players preparing for the Australian Open.
The Spaniard will then make his grand slam return at the Australian Open, a tournament he has won twice and which begins on January 14.
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