For their first opening of the Advent calendar, yellow ball fans around the world were spoiled on Friday December 1st. In a short video posted on his social networks, Rafael Nadal informed his fans that the time had come for him “to return after a year without competition”, in what will undoubtedly be the last season of his long career.

The first excerpt of the video was enough to make his most loyal supporters break out in a cold sweat. We see the Mallorcan injured against the American Mackenzie McDonald on January 18, 2023, during the Australian Open. A short passage reminds us that the Spaniard has not played any official match for almost a year.

As a symbol, the 37-year-old will return to service in the country that saw him injured. It is at the ATP 250 tournament in Brisbane, on the east coast of Australia, from December 31 to January 7, 2024, that “Rafa” will launch what should be the final season of his career, a few weeks before the Open from Australia.

This return announcement is not a surprise. The former world number 1 had announced on several occasions that he did not want to end his career following an injury. “I don’t think I deserve to end up like this. I have worked hard so that my career does not end here, at a press conference,” he insisted in the spring, when he forfeited “his” Roland-Garros tournament – ​​won fourteen times – for the first time since 2005.

Now 664th player in the world

The year 2024, which he had presented before Roland-Garros as “probably the last” of his immense career which began twenty years previously, promises to be a rich one for the “Taurus of Manacor” – if his body holds up and exempts him from new physical problems. Rafael Nadal will try to catch Novak Djokovic in the race for victorious Grand Slam tournaments. The Serbian, who now has twenty-four “majors”, is one step ahead of his Spanish counterpart, who is at 22.

On the clay court of Porte d’Auteuil which no longer holds any secrets for him, the Majorcan will also aim for an Olympic medal in the summer at the Paris 2024 Games. Crowned in singles in Beijing (2008) then in doubles in Rio de Janeiro (2016), he could add one more line to his immense list of achievements.

Having hip surgery on June 2, Nadal appeared in good shape in the videos showing him training within his academy – even if they remain communications operations. These good feelings pushed him to say, alongside his doctor, Angel Ruiz Cotorro, on November 15: “I sincerely believe that I am going to play again. »

His wish came true and even if he no longer has the rank (664th in the ATP) to enter directly into certain tournaments, there is no doubt that the organizers will rush to offer him “wild cards” – these invitations to players who do not have the ranking to enter a final table. Rafael Nadal’s last dance begins at the beginning of January, in Brisbane. A tournament as a warm-up for his real challenge at the start of the season: the Australian Open.