Rafael Nadal's hopes of appearing at next summer's Olympic Games in Paris are in limbo, not because he may not recover from injury, but because ITF rules dictate so.
ITF rules require a player to represent his country at the Davis Cup for two years leading up to the Olympic Games. Nadal hasn't met that prerequisite and would need a special exemption, akin to what the Swiss Tennis Federation applied to enable Roger Federer to play at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Obviously, Federer wasn't able to play then due to his own injury issues and withdrew. But in Nadal's case, he is certain to recover ahead of schedule, and could even play at next year's Australian Open. He'll definitely need a helping hand from Spanish tennis officials to apply for an exemption and hope it will be successful.
Nadal declared his intention to play in the Olympics one more time and relished the prospect of teaming up with his younger compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, although he stated that he had not engaged in a single discourse with him about it.
The 20-year-old is tipped to take over Spain's flagbearer and a capable deputy to fill in Nadal's big shoes once the 37-year-old vacates from his throne at some point next year. Nadal left the door open on playing beyond 2024 but believes it would be a fitting way to put the curtain down on his storied career in Paris.
The city has defined Nadal's legacy. He has won 14 of his 22 Grand Slams at Roland Garros. The tennis venue for next year's Games will be staged there and Nadal is no stranger to producing for his country. He won a singles gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, beating Fernando Gonzalez, and added a second gold medal from the 2016 Rio Olympics alongside Marc Lopez in doubles.