Nadal regresa al tenis

Does Nadal understand the meaning of the word “no”?

It is the year 2024, Rafael Nadal returns to tennis. It sounds like a new story, and it is, although it is also an old one: the Spaniard has done it many, many times before, being out of the tour and then coming back (and doing it successfully). One fact is enough to get an idea of the scale of the issue: out of 21 years on the professional tour, Nadal has not played for five.

Does Nadal understand the meaning of the word “no”? Perhaps he has Aymara blood in his veins.

Before Christopher Columbus arrived in America, the Aymara were settled in what is now Bolivia and northern Argentina. The word “no” was an absence in their vocabulary, because “no” was assimilated to death. Thus, even today, many Aymara descendants still find it difficult to say no. It is not possible to be right-handed and play the game.

It is not possible to be right-handed and play tennis so well left-handed.

It is not possible to have a broken foot since 2005 and compete to be the best of all time.

It’s not possible to get injured over and over again and come back again and again at such a high level that you win Grand Slam titles.

It’s not possible to have won it all, be married, be a father, have more money than you can spend in 50,000 lifetimes and want to get back on the tour by the time you’re almost 38.

It’s not possible… unless you’re Nadal.

Brisbane in January Nadal returns to tennis, and then he will continue at the Australian Open, the same tournament that saw him get injured in 2023. A tournament cruel to him, in which he lost semi-finals and finals he should not have lost and suffered serious injuries. A tournament that was the scene of his big fight with Roger Federer, a rare moment between two players who built a relationship of admiration and respect.

With Novak Djokovic unstoppable, Carlos Alcaraz in contention for the big one and a new generation increasingly hungry and confident, Nadal’s reappearance is pure disruption in a tour that was beginning to get used to going on without him. It won’t be like that, Nadal is back.

Under what conditions, until when? Impossible to say, the only thing we know is that for him, “it’s time to come back”. He seems to understand only one word: “yes”.


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Clay’s managing editor has covered more than 60 Grand Slam tournaments since 1996. Author of “Sin Red”, a journey around the world following Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal: The Lives and Careers of Two Tennis Legends