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Rafael Nadal will reveal his comeback plans soon after missing nearly all of 2023

FILE - Spain's Rafael Nadal returns to Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis in a second round men's singles match for the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, June 30, 2022. Nadal is sure he'll be returning to competition after missing nearly all of 2023 with a hip injury that required surgery. And now he says he'll be revealing his comeback plans soon. Nadal wrote Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 on social media: “I confirmed yesterday I'll be back” and punctuated that message with a smiling emoji. (APPhoto/Kirsty Wigglesworth, file)

FILE - Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns to Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in a second round men’s singles match for the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, June 30, 2022. Nadal is sure he’ll be returning to competition after missing nearly all of 2023 with a hip injury that required surgery. And now he says he’ll be revealing his comeback plans soon. Nadal wrote Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 on social media: “I confirmed yesterday I’ll be back” and punctuated that message with a smiling emoji. (APPhoto/Kirsty Wigglesworth, file)

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Rafael Nadal is sure he’ll be returning to competition after missing nearly all of 2023 with a hip injury that required surgery. And now he says he’ll be revealing his comeback plans soon.

Nadal wrote Thursday on social media: “I confirmed yesterday I’ll be back” and punctuated that message with a smiling emoji.

“Stay tuned,” he continued , which included a photograph of him about to hit a backhand. He said that in the coming days he will “decide and announce with my team when and where” everyone can expect to see him in action.

Next season begins in late December, with the year’s first major tournament, the Australian Open, scheduled to begin main-draw matches on Jan. 14.

“For the world of tennis, no doubt that it’s amazing news that he’ll be back,” Novak Djokovic said at the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy.

Nadal, whose 22 Grand Slam singles titles rank second to Djokovic’s 24 for the most among men, has not played on tour since last January, when he hurt his hip flexor during a loss to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the Australian Open.

In May, a little more than a week before the start of his beloved French Open, Nadal announced that he would miss the tournament he’s won a record 14 times and wasn’t exactly sure when he might return to play.

He said then he hoped to compete in 2024, which he expected to be his final season.

“You never know how things will turn out,” Nadal said at a news conference at the time, “but my intention is that next year will be my last year.”

He wound up having arthroscopic surgery in June in Barcelona.

Dating to the end of 2022, the 37-year-old Spanish left-hander has lost seven of his past nine matches, including going 1-3 this season.

With Roger Federer, who won 20 majors, having announced his retirement in 2022, and Nadal missing much of this year, Djokovic was the only member of the so-called Big Three of men’s tennis who was active throughout 2023 — and the 36-year-old from Serbia was dominant, particularly at the Grand Slam tournaments. He won the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open and reached the final at Wimbledon.

“I think it would be nice for the sport to have at least one more match between Nadal and me. That’s the biggest rivalry in terms of the amount of matches played that this sport ever had. Hopefully that can happen,” Djokovic said. “He’s a big warrior. He’s somebody that really never gives up. With all the injuries that he had, keeps going. That’s definitely something that you have to respect and admire about him and his spirit.”

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Fendrich is an Associated Press national writer based in Washington, D.C. He reports on tennis and other sports.