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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, September 19, 2023


"I said that possibly 2024 will be my last year. I stand by it, but I can't confirm it 100 percent," Rafael Nadal told Movistar Plus Juanma Castaño.

Photo credit: Rafael Nadal Instagram

Staying power is an essential element to Rafael Nadal’s success.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion is not putting an expiration date on what has been billed as his 2024 farewell season.

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In a Movistar Plus + interview with Juanma Castaño—his first major interview since undergoing hip surgery on June 2nd—Nadal reiterated his belief 2024 will possibly be his final season. However, the king of clay made it clear he is not closing the door to continuing to compete if his body can cope with the rigors of the pro circuit.

"I said that possibly 2024 will be my last year. I stand by it, but I can't confirm it 100 percent,” Nadal told Juanma Castaño. “I think there's a good chance yes, because I know how my body is but how I'll be in four months, I don't know.

"I'm not sure what I will do in 2024, because it will change completely depending on whether I have some objectives or others. If I don't recover it's one thing, if I can compete at a level that excites me is another.”

The 37-year-old Spanish superstar aims to comeback and compete at a high level, but cautions he’s well aware of the considerable challenges he faces in advancing age, chronic injury and aches and pains that limit training time. Recovering from the arthroscopic surgery Nadal underwent on the left psoas tendon has limited his practice time—and prompted him to maintain an open mind about his 2024 aspirations.

"I don't have a set plan, I would like to play again, to be competitive again, but the ida is not to come back and win Roland Garros or Australia,” Nadal said. “Do not confuse people, I am very aware that at this time I am in my life all that is far away. I don't say impossible because in the end things in sport can change very quickly.

“I'm not frustrated for one simple reason: within my means I've done everything I can to make things as good as possible. I am not deluded and I am aware of the difficulties I face: age and physical problems that do not allow me to train 100 percent. But that doesn't take away my idea [to come back]. I don't know how I'm going to be."

The former world No. 1 has long said suffering is a prerequisite for Grand Slam success. Nadal concedes he’s still managing daily pain post surgery and suggests pain management will be part of his daily life for the rest of his career.

"It has changed my character to have a lot of pain, more than necessary,” Nadal said. “Now I live with controlled pain, it doesn't make me bitter. When it's hard for me to go downstairs at home, it's hard to be very happy."

The good news: Nadal reports he is hitting “40 minutes three days a week, and [doing] a lot of gym [training].”

The bad news: Nadal said his hitting is primarily stationary because he still can’t move with the same vigor at the moment. Due to training limitations, Nadal is targeting mid-November to see how his body has responded before trying to design a 2024 schedule.

“My dream is, in mid-November, to know how I am physically,” Nadal said. “These are the deadlines we have set for ourselves."

If the king of clay is physically able to compete at the start of the 2024 season, what would his ideal curtain call to the sport to which he’s devoted his life look like?

Nadal stood shoulder to shoulder with friend and longtime rival Roger Federer for the Swiss Maestro’s emotional farewell to tennis at Laver Cup in London’s O2 Arena last year. The champions sat side by side and wept together following Federer’s final match in a powerfully poignant moment.

Fellow Big 4 champions Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have both said experiencing Federer’s farewell prompted both of them to consider how they would like to depart the stage when their glorious careers are done.

Could the king of clay try to win Roland Garros and say farewell at the Chatrier Court he has owned in Paris? Or could two-time gold-medal champion Nadal opt to say good-bye at the Olympic Games in Paris?

The king of clay was forced pulled the plug on Paris this year, but dreams of a Roland Garros farewell next year.

Hall of Famer John McEnroe does not rule out Nadal winning a French Open farewell in 2024.

Conceding the Spanish superstar will be 38 years old when the 2024 Roland Garros final is staged and has been hammered by injuries, McEnroe said given Nadal's 14 French Open championships he will never discount the former No. 1 in Paris.

“I would never say that he couldn't win at Roland-Garros," McEnroe said on a Eurosport telecast over the summer. "Anyone that's done what he's done, as long as he stepped foot on a court would have a great chance."

Since sharing a heartfelt hug and a good cry sitting side-by-side with Federer on the Team Europe bench last fall, Nadal has had plenty of time to ponder his own exit strategy.

At the ATP Finals in Turin last November, Nadal dropped what some perceived as a hint of a possible Davis Cup farewell in 2024.

"Let's see if I'm able to play again the Davis Cup one day. I am not sure about it," Nadal told the media in Turin. "Of course, in my mind, [I] would love to say good-bye from that beautiful competition playing. Let's see what can happen in the future."

Parting can be painful and poignant. At this point, Nadal said he will let his body and 2024 results determine when and how he says farewell.

“Leaving tennis at the Olympics would be nice, if one is for it. But I am cautious,” Nadal said. “If I really feel I have any chance of winning at Roland Garros, I would have to plan things and choose a calendar for it. If I'm not there to do it, I can still do a farewell tour on a sentimental basis. But I don't have an answer yet for these things."


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