After a frustrating 2023 that saw him miss most of the season through injury, Rafael Nadal will be hoping he can get back to winning ways in the Grand Slam events next year.
The 37-year-old could be set for his final season before calling time on his illustrious playing career and the veteran would love nothing more than to sign off by adding to his 22 Grand Slam titles in 2024.
A Year Lost For Nadal
Injury in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open in January saw Nadal crash out of the competition in Melbourne at the hands of the American Mackenzie McDonald. Nadal, who is +400 with a tennis bet online to win the 2024 French Open, would have seen the injury as a setback but the full extent of the hip issue was not realized until later.
It was soon discovered the veteran had suffered a grade two injury to his iliopsoas muscle in his hip and that he would be out for six to eight weeks.
There was hope that Nadal would still be able to feature in his beloved French Open but the 2023 tournament at Roland-Garros came and went without the “King of Clay” there to challenge for what would have been a 15th French Open title.
Nadal had been hopeful that his recovery would see him feature in Paris and had to make the heartbreaking call that he would not attend. It was then clear that his chances of playing in the final two Grand Slam events of the season at Wimbledon and the US Open were slim and his efforts should be focused on being ready for a potential swansong season in 2024.
Melbourne To Provide Good Acid Test
The first Grand Slam of the new season at the Australian Open will reveal how Nadal is shaping up before his favorite major event at the French Open in May. The man from Mallorca has enjoyed success in Melbourne in the past, winning the Aussie Open in 2009 and 2022.
With the likes of Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas all expected to be competing at the latter stage of the competition, Nadal will have his work cut out for him to challenge for the title.
While rustiness is likely to be a factor for Nadal as he tries to get back up to speed with the other top players in the world, he should be much fresher than he has been in the past. Winning his first Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2005, Nadal has had a relentless schedule on the ATP circuit since.
While the year off will have been frustrating, Nadal has had time to fully recover from his hip injury and he is no stranger to working hard in the gym. The experienced pro will have been working on strengthening the hip muscle, along with thigh exercises and hamstring routines to make sure he’s back to his explosive best for the start of the season.
Roland-Garros Offers Best Opportunity
When it comes to Nadal’s 22 Grand Slam titles, 14 of those have come at the French Open, and winning yet another major in Paris would be a dream come true if this is his final season. Earning the nickname of the “King of Clay” is no easy feat and Nadal has justified the title with his dominance at Roland-Garros since that first French Open crown back in 2005.
In Nadal’s absence from the prestigious competition in Paris last year, it was rival Djokovic who managed to claim his third French Open title. The Serbian star was superb through the 2023 season, winning three of the four Grand Slams after falling just short in the Wimbledon final.
Putting together a 19-run winning streak on his way to winning the ATP Finals at the end of the campaign in Turin, world number one Djokovic has shown he will be the player to beat this season.
Nadal will be fully aware of the size of the task ahead of him if he is to add to his Grand Slam tally, especially with Djokovic in such excellent form heading into the new year. Nadal has responded well to injury setbacks in the past and the Spanish star will be hoping 2024 can deliver at least one more Grand Slam title, before calling time on one of the best careers in tennis history.