One Last Dance: Rafael Nadal offers insight into mindset ahead of final comeback

One Last Dance: Rafael Nadal offers insight into mindset ahead of final comeback

With 2024 earmarked as Rafael Nadal's final year of competitive tennis, the Spaniard is in a philosophical mood.

Almost 12 months ago, Nadal waltzed onto court at the Australian Open as the defending champion, only to be bundled out in the second round while nursing an injury. That hip continued to prove troublesome and after months of physiotherapy, he was forced to go under the knife to prolong his career.

Of course, given the life of a professional tennis player, Nadal has bounced back from several injuries over his distinguished 22-year career.

But at 37 years old, this one hits different.

In September, Nadal hinted that the upcoming season could very well be his swansong. Never one for half-measures, the former world number one aims to bow out on his terms on a high, rather than amidst the darkness of an injury cloud.

This month's Brisbane International will see the return of the 22-time Grand Slam winner as he seeks form ahead of the Australian Open in January.

Speaking openly in a video released on X this week, Nadal provided an insight into his current mindset.

"I have been afraid to announce things because in the end it's [been] a year without competing and it's a hip operation," said the Mallorca native.

"But what worries me most is not the hip, it's everything else. I think I'm ready and I trust and hope that things go well and that it gives me the opportunity to enjoy myself on the court."

"I hope, first of all, to feel again those nerves, that illusion, those fears, those doubts. I expect from myself not to expect anything. This is the truth. To have the ability not to demand myself what I have demanded myself throughout my career. I believe I'm in a different moment, in a different situation and in an unexplored terrain.

A hallmark of Nadal's game has always been his fierce determination to fight for every point, grinding down his opponent with relentless effort. However, he is all too aware that this approach requires the "maximum" from his indefatigable but ageing body.

"I have internalised what I have had throughout my life, which is to demand myself the maximum," he continued.

"And right now what I really hope is to be able not to do that, not to demand [myself] the maximum, to accept that things are going to be very difficult at the beginning and to give myself the necessary time and forgive myself if things go wrong at the beginning, which is a very big possibility.

"But knowing that there may be a not-too-distant future in which things can change if I keep the illusion and the spirit of work and the physique responds to me, without any doubt."

With the indomitable Father Time set to remain undefeated, Nadal fans will hoping for one last victory lap from their tireless matador in 2024.

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