Serena Williams' childhood coach Rick Macci doesn't see 37-year-old Rafael Nadal being a legitimate Grand Slam contender when he returns after a very long absence caused by an injury. Nadal, a former world No 1, hasn't played any tournaments since this year's Australian Open.
After undergoing surgery on his psoas muscle in early June, Nadal is working on his return and hoping to play again in January. When Nadal returns, he will be a year older and it will be exactly a year since he last played.
"As far as Rafa coming back, as you get older, you lose a little mobility and people aren't afraid when they know you're vulnerable. There's not that much difference between the guys at the top and then the next tier, and when they know they have a chance, that's a whole different thing, even on clay.
Where before against Rafa, he's 112-3 on clay [at Roland Garros]. The match was over before it even started. You knew you weren't gonna beat the guy more than likely. So that being said, I wish Rafa all the best, but he's not at the exact same level he was before so I don't think he's a contender to win a Slam," Macci told Tennis-Infinity.
How much can Nadal do in his return?
Over the last couple of months, Nadal has several times spoken about his comeback goals and targets. For Nadal, the main priority will be staying healthy when he does return. Then, Nadal will try to slowly find his game and get back into the competitive rhythm.
When asked about his Grand Slam aspirations, Nadal admitted that winning a Grand Slam for him would be very difficult in 2024. If Nadal plays at this year's Australian Open, he will be unseeded and there is a possibility for him to draw a big name in early rounds. Certainly, Nadal's best chances of making a strong Grand Slam run next year would be at the French Open.