Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz say Rafael Nadal will reach top level after injury return

ReutersNovak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz expect Rafa Nadal to be at his competitive best at the Australian Open next month despite a hip injury that wiped out the veteran Spaniard’s 2023 season.

Nadal suffered a muscle issue at Melbourne Park in January that required surgery and will return at Brisbane this weekend before playing in the Jan. 14-28 Australian Open where he won two of his 22 Grand Slam titles.

The 37-year-old expects to retire in 2024 with a series of injuries limiting his appearances on the circuit but has stepped up his training in recent weeks and 24-times Grand Slam champion Djokovic said his great rival cannot be written off just yet.

“I always expect him to play at his best, to be honest,” Djokovic said before his 4-6 6-4 6-4 defeat by Alcaraz in an exhibition match in Riyadh on Wednesday.

“Many times they’ve signed him out, they’ve done that with me as well. But we’ve proved them wrong. He’s not a kind of a player who will come back to the tour just to play, let’s say, on a medium level, play a few matches.

“He wants to win titles, he wants to be the best, that’s why he is who he is: a legend of our sport. I’m sure his training and preparation is done with an intention to win a Grand Slam.”


Alcaraz, who has lost two of his three meetings with Nadal, said his compatriot was at a 100% after watching videos of him practising.

“I hear from other players that practised with Rafa in these past weeks and they said he’s going to return to his good level. His top level,” Alcaraz said.

However, Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya said last week that while Nadal had shown good progress in training since recovering from a hip injury, as a coach he still worries about how his body will hold up against the rigours of Grand Slam tennis.