Sports, Tennis

Nadal plays down title expectations

By Reuters
Published : 29 Dec 2023 08:27 PM

Rafael Nadal said it is still "impossible" for him to think about winning tournaments as he prepares for his much-awaited comeback at the Brisbane International after spending almost a year on the sidelines with a hip injury.

The 22-times Grand Slam champion, who is gearing up for next month's Australian Open, sustained the problem during his second round defeat at Melbourne Park in January and did not compete again last season after having surgery in June.

Nadal's rivals, including world number one Novak Djokovic, believe he will be at his competitive best on his return but the 37-year-old played down title expectations in what is likely to be his final season on tour.

"It's impossible to think about winning tournaments today," Nadal told Australian Associated Press on Friday. "What's really possible is to enjoy the comeback. I don't expect much... one year without being on the court." Nadal has stepped up his training in recent months and practised with world number eight Holger Rune at the Queensland Tennis Centre after arriving in Australia on Thursday.

The Spaniard, who has slipped to world number 672, said he was feeling much better than a year ago but added that he cannot have long-term goals just yet.

"I don't know how things are going to keep going," Nadal said. "I'm not a player who tries to predict what can happen in the short term and it's tougher in the medium period of time.

"I need to accept the adversity and that it's not going to be perfect, just come with the right spirit every day."

The Brisbane International begins on Sunday while the Australian Open runs from Jan. 14-28.