Toni Nadal on Rafa's Career Beyond 2024 - Hopes and Realities

Rafael Nadal will play his fourth match of the season in Barcelona

by Jovica Ilic
Toni Nadal on Rafa's Career Beyond 2024 - Hopes and Realities
© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal is back in action in Barcelona, playing his first match since the first week of the season and Brisbane. Rafa came earlier to Barcelona to train, testing his body and deciding to enter the draw, facing the young Italian Flavio Cobolli in the first round.

Rafa's uncle Toni would love to see his nephew competing beyond 2024. However, the famous coach is realistic, acknowledging it's getting tougher for Rafa's body to recover from injuries at nearly 38. Nadal has played only seven matches since the beginning of 2023, dealing with many setbacks and trying to extend his career and finish it on his terms.

Rafa does not expect much from his Barcelona appearance despite lifting 12 trophies from as many finals at the event where the central court carries his name. A 22-time Major winner only wishes to play without injuries and prepare for Roland Garros and the Olympic Games.

Nadal is 66-4 in Barcelona since debuting in 2003, suffering only four losses and dominating like no one before him. Rafa lifted the trophy three years ago over Stefanos Tsitsipas, saving a match point and prevailing after three hours and 37 minutes.

Nadal could not play in Barcelona in the previous years due to injuries. He is returning at this week's edition ready to give his everything, aware this could be his last trip to one of his beloved events. Rafa was a player to beat in the opening six months of 2022, conquering two Major crowns and leaving Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic behind.

Rafael Nadal, Brisbane 2024© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

The Spaniard reached the Wimbledon semi-final despite an abdominal injury, prevailing over Taylor Fritz in the quarter-final but withdrawing ahead of the semi-final duel with Nick Kyrgios.

Nadal has not found his A-game following this setback, having played only 16 matches in the next year and a half! Rafa struggled by the end of 2022 and did not improve his form at the beginning of 2023. The Spaniard suffered two United Cup losses and came to Melbourne without confidence.

Rafa defeated Jack Draper in the first round at the Australian Open before suffering a career blow versus Mackenzie McDonald. Nadal injured his left hip in the closing stages of the second set, battling until the end but ruining an entire season!

Rafael Nadal, Brisbane 2024© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Toni Nadal spoke about Rafael Nadal's return.

A veteran took a break and wrapped up the season after undergoing surgery in June, experiencing the worst setback of his incredible career.

Rafa spent a delightful summer with his family and friends, recharging batteries and returning to the practice court and gym. Happy about his progress, Nadal set his comeback for the first week of 2024 in Brisbane. Rafa's first match in 349 days came against Dominic Thiem, and he played at a high level, given the circumstances.

Nadal broke Thiem's resistance in the closing stages of the opening set and sailed through the second to celebrate a much-needed win. Jason Kubler stood no chance against Nadal in the second round, with a veteran sailing into the quarter-final.

Rafael Nadal, Brisbane 2024© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

However, his comeback was halted after a massive blow against Jordan Thompson, wasting three match points and falling 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 after three hours and 25 minutes.

As was expected after such a long break and a massive effort, Nadal felt the pain around his hip, traveling to Melbourne and undergoing an MRI before withdrawing from the Australian Open. Rafa went back home and started another training process a couple of weeks later.

However, he injured his abdominal muscle, like at Wimbledon two years ago, struggling to serve and withdrawing from Doha. The Spaniard traveled to the USA, playing The Netflix Slam in Las Vegas against Carlos Alcaraz and hoping to enter the first Masters 1000 event of the season in Indian Wells.

A veteran did not like his chances after still feeling the pain, missing another event and setting his eyes on the beloved clay swing. Rafa made a tough decision and skipped Monte Carlo, his most successful Masters 1000 event, not rushing anything and giving his body enough time to recover.

Nadal traveled to Barcelona last Wednesday, training with Andrey Rublev and Hugo Dellien and deciding to enter the draw and compete for the first time after over 100 days. Rafa will throw everything at Roland Garros and the Olympic Games in Paris, hoping to recover and challenge the rivals from the top for the first time in two years.

If things do not go his way, Nadal is ready to finish his incredible career after giving everything to our sport.

Rafael Nadal, Brisbane 2024© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

"I hope to see Rafa play beyond 2024.

However, he turns 38 in June, and his body does not respond like when he was younger. It will be challenging against Cobolli, a young player ranked in the top-60. Rafa has trained well, but the competitive matches are always different," Toni Nadal said.

Toni Nadal Rafael Nadal