MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 18: Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a backhand in their round two singles match against Mackenzie McDonald of the United States during day three of the 2023 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
CNN  — 

Rafael Nadal says he’s not setting any “deadlines” for his long-anticipated return to tennis, with the Spaniard still recovering from a hip injury.

The 22-time grand slam champion has been out of action since the Australian Open in January and underwent surgery in June which ruled him out for the rest of the 2023 calendar.

Earlier this month, Australian Open’s tournament director Craig Tiley said Nadal would make his return at the 2024 edition, though following those comments, the Spaniard’s representative Benito Pérez-Barbadillo told CNN that there were “no dates confirmed yet.”

Now in an interview with CNNE, Nadal said he wasn’t sure when he would return competitively.

“If you ask me where I’d like to compete, well, I’d like to compete in the tournaments that have been important for me and which are important for the whole world,” Nadal told CNNE.

“It’s going to depend on how I feel physically and tennis wise, when I can really test myself. Right now, this is totally uncertain.

“We’ll see what happens and I have to have a little bit of patience … I’m not adding more pressure than is already there.”

Nadal recently posted a video of himself back on court as he prepares for the 2024 season.

He has fallen dramatically down the rankings as a result of his absence, currently occupying the 240th spot.

He dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in more than 17 years in March this year, having spent a remarkable 912 weeks in that bracket.

Nadal says his recovery from the surgery is going well, but admitted the process hasn’t been easy.

“Physically, I feel better than a while ago and I hope worse than what I’ll feel like in two weeks’ time,” he added.

“In the end, it’s a recovery process, which is hard. The operation was an invasive operation, a major operation.

“I’m accepting things as they come. I’m trying to get better and take steps forward every day and that’s where we are.”

Spain's Rafael Nadal takes rest during the break in his men's singles match against  Mackenzie McDonald of the US on day three of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 18, 2023. - -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images)

A potential return to next year’s Australian Open could mark the start of Nadal’s final year in the sport.

During a press conference in May, he admitted that 2024 is “probably going to be [his] last year on the professional tour.”

But Nadal has set no exact date for any potential retirement and is instead focused on returning to the court again.

“On a sporting level, I’d like to be in another situation, but as of today, it is what it is,” he said, adding he was “happy” on a personal level.

“I’m happier today sporting wise than a month-and-a-half ago. So I trust that in two months, I’ll be happier sporting wise than what I am today.

“I’m working day to day and pushing myself so that that happens.”