“I expect myself not to expect anything in particular”: Rafael Nadal, in a video published Monday on social networks, worked to moderate the expectations born from the announcement of his return to competition, almost a year after playing his last match. The former world No.1, who fell to 664th in the world in the latest ATP rankings published on Monday, created a sensation by announcing on Friday that he was going to return to the tennis courts at the beginning of January in Brisbane (December 31 to January 7), for a probable last season before retiring.
The Spaniard's return sparked excitement. But, at 37, Nadal warns: he no longer wants to demand from himself what he has imposed on himself throughout his career. “It’s been a long time since I played, so above all I hope to feel this pressure again, this excitement, these fears, these doubts,” he says in front of the camera in a video posted on social networks. “I expect myself to not expect anything in particular. It's the truth. Having the ability to no longer demand of myself what I have demanded of myself throughout my career,” he continues.
Nadal has not played competitively since January 18, when, weakened by a hip injury, he lost in three sets to the American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the Australian Open. The player, who has since undergone surgery, has indicated several times in recent months that the 2024 season will be his last. With a possible double date on the clay court of Roland-Garros which made him king, since the tennis tournament of the Paris 2024 Games will take place at the Porte d'Auteuil stadium where he won 14 of the 22 titles in Grand Slam of his prolific career.
“I'm in a different moment, in a different situation and in unknown territory,” he continues, explaining that he will have to change his approach to the sport. “I internalized,” he says, “what I imposed on myself all my life, to demand the maximum from myself. Now I really hope to be able to stop doing it, to stop demanding the most from myself, to accept that things will be very difficult at first, to give myself the time I need, to forgive myself if things go wrong at first, which is a very strong possibility.” But the competitor remains on the lookout. “There may be a not too distant future where things can change if I keep the enthusiasm, the spirit of work and if the physique responds,” he concludes.