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TENNIS

Rafael Nadal is back playing competitively in Brisbane

The Spaniard hasn’t played since the 2023 Australian Open but has revealed he will make his comeback from injury Down Under.

The Spaniard hasn’t played since the 2023 Australian Open but has revealed he will make his comeback from injury Down Under.
PATRICK HAMILTONAFP

Rafael Nadal has officially returned to tennis almost a year after suffering a serious hip injury at the 2023 Australian Open. The 37-year-old has made his comeback at the Brisbane International on Dec. 31.

2024: Nadal’s last season on tour?

317 days after withdrawing from his second round match against Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open, Nadal will finally make his return to the courts after a challenging 2023. He postponed his competitive comeback on several occasions until 18 May, when he held a press conference at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor on the island of Mallorca, in which he revealed wouldn’t be playing at the French Open, his favourite tournament which he has won a record 14 times. He also hinted that 2024 could be his last season on tour, while leaving the door open to playing in this year’s Davis Cup Finals, which Spain ultimately didn’t qualify for without him.

Following that announcement, Nadal underwent arthroscopic surgery on 2 June in attempt to solve his hip flexor problem, with the treatment he had undergone after the Australian Open not having the desired effect. After a long period of recovery, Nadal has returned to training in Mallorca in recent weeks, with the Australian Open hinting he would play in the 2024 tournament, which the 22-time Grand Slam winner has now confirmed.

The Spaniard will play at the Brisbane International scheduled to be played between 31 December and 7 January. Holger Rune, Grigor Dimitrov, Ben Shelton and Andy Murray are among the other big names competing at the event, which wasn’t held between 2019 and 2023 but is back to replace the abolished ATP Cup.

Currently ranked 663rd in the ATP rankings, Nadal could face any of those mentioned above in the first round as he will go into the tournament unseeded. Although that would serve as a good test before returning to Grand Slam action at the Australian Open (January 14-28), the scene of where his latest injury troubles began.

Nadal could face Djokovic or Alcaraz in Australian Open first round

Nadal will presumably be given a wild card for the first major of the year and, again, may be paired with old foe Novak Djokovic or compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in the early rounds. After Melbourne, we could potentially see the veteran star compete at Roland Garros and the 2024 Olympic Games, although he has not announced his schedule beyond Australia as things stand.

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