Nadal doesn't rule out playing beyond 2024 season

Nadal said he was already thinking about the French Open, where he has won 14 of his major titles. File photo: Reuters/Albert Gea

Brisbane (Australia): Rafael Nadal refused to rule out playing beyond the 2024 season as he prepares to return from a hip injury that sidelined him for nearly a year, but the Spaniard admitted on Sunday there was also a "high percentage" chance he may not return next summer.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion had arthroscopic surgery on the iliopsoas muscle in his left hip in June after sustaining an injury during his second round defeat at the 2023 Australian Open by Mackenzie McDonald.

Nadal had previously said he expected to bring the curtains down on his glittering but injury-plagued career in 2024, but in a press conference ahead of his comeback at the Brisbane International he left the door ajar.

"The problem about saying it's going to be my last season is that I can't predict what's going on 100% in the future. That's the thing," Nadal said ahead of a doubles match on Sunday with partner Marc Lopez. "That's why I say probably."

The Brisbane tournament is a tune-up for the January 14-28 Australian Open during the height of the country's summer.

Nadal plays Austria's Dominic Thiem in his Brisbane singles opener on Tuesday - a blockbuster rematch of their 2018 and 2019 French Open title clashes, both of which the 37-year-old Spaniard won.

"It's obvious it's a high percentage that it's going to be my last time playing in Australia. But if I'm here next year, don't tell me, 'you said it's going to be your last season' because I didn't say it," said Nadal, a two-time winner of the Australian Open men's singles title.

"You never know what's going on, you know? I can't predict how I'm going to be in the next six months. I can't predict if my body will allow me to enjoy tennis as much as I enjoyed the past 20 years."

In an interview on December 13 with Spanish newspaper El Pais and published on Sunday, Nadal said he was already thinking about the French Open, where he has won 14 of his major titles.

He said he would have more clarity about his future by then.

"When I arrive in Paris, I will know if it is my last year. And there will be a prior announcement," Nadal said.

"There will have passed five months on the circuit and I'll know my reality: one can sense these things, but until he feels them he cannot do anything."

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