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Rafael Nadal Is Back!

The King of Clay Will Make His Return at the Brisbane International in January

Rafael Nadal Is Back!
Rafael Nadal | Angela Weiss / AFP

See You in Brisbane, Rafa!

After a year of not competing, it is time to come back. – Rafael Nadal

Tennis rumors quietly circulated that Rafa Nadal, arguably the greatest tennis player the world has ever seen, would return after a 12-month hiatus due to a hip injury he sustained in the second round of the Australian Open last January. It turns out those rumors were true!

“After a year of not competing, it is time to come back,” Nadal said in a video posted on social media. “It will be in Brisbane in the first week of January. See you there.”

I’m not sure what these legendary athletes feel they need to prove after proving it all. It seems they never go quietly, even NFL legend Tom Brady muddled through a mediocre final season after winning a Super Bowl the preceding year with the Bucs. Why couldn’t he have just gone out on top waving the Lombardi Trophy as he walked off the field and into Canton?

Or how about Michael Jordan, the man who defied gravity, returning to the hardcourt to play out a few pedestrian seasons with those forgettable Washington Wizards teams? Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, and a litany of other boxing champs hanging on for one more paycheck and a last gasp at fame, only to tarnish their legacies.

Very few athletes have been able to muster the intestinal fortitude to walk away on top. Barry Sanders, the greatest running back in the history of the NFL, said bye-bye at 30 and at the peak of his physical prowess. Marvin Hagler, a world middleweight champion, lost a controversial super fight to Sugar Ray Leonard and said no mas.

This leads me to the latest tennis news and confirmation that Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay, having won 14 French Opens and a total of 22 Grand Slam events, is returning after a year of rehabbing an injured hip flexor. Good news, right?

Ah, yeah, but I have a feeling I already know how this movie ends. Spain’s Raging Bull will be 38 in June and I realize that today’s athlete takes much better care of their bodies and can extend their careers based on a strict diet of whatever lotions and potions their nutritionist prescribes along with personal trainers, chefs, etc.

I get it and I also know that it’s tough to stay away from something you not only love but loves you right back. Nadal will be among the best when he returns but all these young pups like Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, champing at the bit to become the next tennis legend, will be waiting to dethrone the king.

And lest we forget Novak Djokovic, another living legend only a year younger than Nadal still playing at an elite level. How will Nadal’s injury impact his play? How will Rafa’s middle-aged body react to going full tilt in the heat of battle?

Athletes simply don’t get better in their late 30s, the best they can hope for is they perform at the same superior level but that’s impossible. It is impossible, right, Rafa? Hopefully, he proves me wrong and this movie has a happy ending.

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