“First of all, he needs to finish his rehab… but by the end of the year, I think he’s going to be fully recovered.”
However, Lopez insists it was not practical to pinpoint a date for his return just yet.
Nadal has ruled out competing on the tour again in 2023, which makes the Australian Open in January the first feasible opportunity for a return to competitive action.
Rafael Nadal’s recovery from hip surgery is going ‘great so far’, says Feliciano Lopez
“It’s very early to make a realistic plan of where he is going to play,” Lopez added.
“Maybe Australia is too early? Maybe he doesn’t want to play in Australia because he wants to focus only on the clay season?
“You can never underestimate Rafa because if he’s physically OK, he’s still going to be able to challenge the best players in the world.
Lopez has won the Davis Cup alongside Nadal
“It’s impossible to make a prediction because he’s the one who is able to surprise everyone, even in difficult situations. I hope he recovers 100% and then he will decide if he goes just for the clay, which is probably more reasonable now, or if he goes for the full calendar.”
Lopez also mooted that the Paris Olympics next summer – held on the clay of Roland Garros – is a target for the 14-time French Open champion.
“The Olympic Games next summer, in Roland Garros, is another hypothetical tournament that he’s willing to play,” Lopez says.
“But it’s very difficult to predict at the moment because the most important thing for him is to be fully recovered… but for all tennis fans around the world, I think they’re going to have another opportunity to see Rafa.
Nadal has not played since the Australian Open in January
“Where and when? This I don’t know yet, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to be competing next year.”
Speaking in May about his motivation to return to competitive action one last time, Nadal said: “I don’t think I deserve to end like this. I’ve worked hard enough throughout my career for my end not to be in a press conference.”
In his absence, Novak Djokovic has overtaken Nadal in the all-time Grand Slam titles leaderboard with the Serb on 23 – sealed at Nadal’s fortress at Roland Garros in June – and is looking to make it 24 this weekend at the US Open.
Djokovic faces rising American star Ben Shelton in the semi-finals and is on a collision course once again with Carlos Alcaraz in the final, the world No 1 who beat him in the Wimbledon final.
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