Tim Henman says it is "possible" to see Rafael Nadal pull off a 2017 Australian Open Roger Federer but adds he thinks that is "unlikely" to happen. After undergoing knee surgery in the summer of 2016, Federer won his first Grand Slam in five years at the 2017 Australian Open.
This coming January, Nadal is set to return to competitive action after not playing since the 2023 Australian Open due to hip surgery. "Because they are such champions incredible I think it is possible. I think it's unlikely.
I think it also adds to the fact that Rafa is great on hard courts. He's just on a ridiculously different level on clay courts. So I think the hard courts are probably a little stepping stone," Henman told Eurosport Spain.
Henman: Nadal's comeback starts when the clay season starts
Ahead of his comeback, Nadal has claimed several times that he doesn't really have any major expectations but just hopes to be competitive.
Henman agrees that Nadal likely won't expect major things early in his comeback as the Spaniard will probably just want to test himself and see where he is at. If the early stages of comeback go well, Henman thinks Nadal's aspirations could increase by the clay season. "He has to go out to play, he has to get into the environment, he has to compete in longer matches, deal with adversity and all the different elements that he hasn't done in a long, long time.
And it's not easy to play tournaments that way again. However, if he can stay injury-free and play tournaments early in the year to a certain extent, I feel like his comeback really begins once he hits the clay courts and we will have had a chance to see where he is at.
How is his physical condition, how is his movement, how is his body, how is he recovering after games? I think then, when the matches come, we'll be able to say, well, look, is there any chance for Rafa to increase his Grand Slam tally?" Henman said.