Rafael Nadal has again left the tennis world guessing as to if and when he will return to the sport after almost a season and a half of injury.

The Spaniard who turns 38 in June has played just seven matches since the start of 2023, with his most recent a January loss in Brisbane and another injury setback.

The No. 647 has been tipped to return in time for the Monte Carlo Masters on his beloved clay starting April 7.

But the 22-time Grand Slam champion gave no indication of his timetable as he spoke on his home island of Mallorca at an awards ceremony for his tennis academy.

“I will do my best to try to start the clay season, which is my goal, I am working for that and striving for that goal,” he told a crowd.

“But I don’t dare to say anything because lately it has been difficult for me to make predictions, unfortunately.”

He said that despite the uncertainty,he is in  no way calling time on his career.

“I’ve not stopped training at any time. I’m trying all the time. I feel fine, I just haven’t managed to follow the schedule I would have liked/.

“Hopefully things can change, but I can’t say because I don’t know myself. 

“I’m a realist. For the last year and a half or two it’s been impossible for me to compete, so the first objective is to try to compete and I’m going day by day.

“I’m very old and I’ve got a very long career behind me.”

But Nadal dropped the hammer on any wildly optimistic expectations: “I try to go day by day, do the work I have to do to give myself opportunities – we’ll see how long we can try.

“The reality is (I[ve not felt) ready to start playing a tournament at this level, with the little training background I had.

pet“I didn’t want to start a tournament with no guarantee of being able to advance to at least the level that I think I need to demand of myself to try and start a tournament.”

The Monte Monte Carlo event kicks off the European spring clay campaign, with majors dates in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome prior to the May 25 start at Roland Garros.