Brisbane | Nadal makes welcome return but loses doubles

Rafa Nadal is back playing tennis on the professional tour after virtually a full year’s absence following his second round loss at the 2023 Australian Open with an injury which led to him having arthroscopic surgery on his left hip.

I can't predict if my body will allow me to enjoy tennis as much as I enjoyed the past 20 years Rafa Nadal

Now the Spanish icon, holder of 22 grand slam titles, is back playing the Brisbane International Presented by Evie , making his return in a doubles match on Sunday with his compatriot Marc Lopez.

Aged 37, he has intimated this season will be his last on the Tour but has refused to confirm that he is signalling retirement.

Ahead of his comeback in Brisbane – a warm-up event for the Australian Open which starts on January 14 – Nadal said: “The problem about saying it’s going to be my last season is that I can’t predict what’s going on 100 per cent in the future. That’s why I say ‘probably’.”

He added: “It’s obvious it’s a high percentage that it’s going to be my last time playing in Australia. But if I’m here next year, don’t tell me, ‘you said it’s going to be your last season’ because I didn’t say it.

“You never know what’s going on, you know? I can’t predict how I’m going to be in the next six months. I can’t predict if my body will allow me to enjoy tennis as much as I enjoyed the past 20 years.”

As mentioned, he opened his 2024 campaign in the doubles, no doubt using that to get in some match play before his singles but unfortunately for him he only got 73-miutes of match play before going out to the Australian combo of Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson, 6-4 6-4.

There was a certain amount of rustiness in his game and was broken in the first set to concede that and while he upped his game somewhat in the second, it was his partner who was broken crucially in the seventh game,

The Aussies hung on to the of the partisan crowd who no doubt will welcome Nadal back when he returns for his first singles encounter on Tuesday when he faces another former grand slam winner, Austrian Dominic Thiem.

And that won’t be an easy opening match for the Spaniard, a wild card entry, as Thiem, a former world No.3, has successfully come through the qualifying event to reach the main draw.

The main problem Thiem faced in his qualifying run was the arrival of a poisonous snake on court which held up play against James McCabe for 40-mintes while a professional snake-catcher was called in to deal with the problem.

“I really love animals, especially exotic ones,” Thiem said at the time. “But they said it was a really poisonous snake and it was close to the ball kids, so it was a really dangerous situation.

“It’s something that has never happened to me and is something I’ll definitely never forget.”

Andy Murray is also competing in Brisbane and is scheduled to play the second seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, on Monday, New Year’s Day.






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