Fans are celebrating across the tennis world after Rafael Nadal confirmed that he will make his long-awaited return to court at the the Brisbane International in January, in preparation for the Australian Open. Nadal has not played a match since hobbling out of the Melbourne Park grand slam in January after a shock second round defeat to American Mackenzie McDonald.
Nadal has been struggling with a hip flexor problem and was only initially expected to be out of tennis for eight weeks with the injury. However, the 37-year-old experienced complications with the issue ended up undergoing surgery on the hip in June, ruling him out for the rest of the 2023 season.
In his absence from the sport, the Spaniard's ranking has plummeted to 663 after his incredible 18-year stay in the world's top 10 ended back in March. However, in exciting news for his legion of fans around the world, as well as Australian Open organisers, Nadal has confirmed that he will be returning Down Under for another crack at the Melbourne Park crown, by competing in the Brisbane International lead-up event.
"Hello everyone. After a year away from competition it's time to come back," Nadal said in a video message on X on Friday. "I will be in Brisbane the first week of January. I'll see you there."
Nadal's simple message sent the tennis world into a frenzy on social media, with fans missing the class and charisma he's brought to the court for the best part of 20 years. Nadal's appearance in Australia looks set to be the start of what will effectively be a grand farewell tour for the 22-time grand slam singles winner, with fans celebrating the exciting news on social media.
IT IS A DREAM, AND I LOVE DREAMING WITH NADAL.
I ALWAYS DREAM BIG, VERY GIGANTIC ,,,,,,,,
BECAUSE IT WILL ALWAYS COME TRUE .
HE NEVER FAILED ME, NEVER
— Fadygoda87 (@fadygoda87) December 1, 2023
rafa nadal is back. oh my god.
— isabella ⋆｡°✩ (@piastrilando) December 1, 2023
Goosebumps. Forever King. 🖤
— Eleonora Aloise (@eleonora_aloise) December 1, 2023
Rafa Nadal is Back! 🍾
We wish you a healthy and successful year, legend. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/5ukgBzYsyZ
— Rafael Nadal Best Shots (@nadalbestshots) December 1, 2023
I'm so excited for 2024!!!
— Majo H (@mariajoseh16) December 1, 2023
Rafael Nadal Parera is back! Back for the last dance. The one last comeback (which
shalllast for a long long time, hopefully c). Onceagain he is back from the dead to fill our lives with the most intense emotions. He is back!
— RN97 (@RN97_22) December 1, 2023
Rafa Nadal to return after long injury lay-off
Nadal hinted that his return to tennis was close after posting videos to social media showing him hard at work in training as he aims to get his body right for one last hurrah. The Spaniard says he plans to play the French Open and represent his country at the Paris Olympics next year before retiring at the end of his 23rd season on tour.
After the 37-year-old missed the French Open - a grand slam he has won a record 14 times - Nadal said at the time: "You never know how things will turn out, but my intention is that next year will be my last year." There were reports Nadal would return for Spain's Davis Cup tie, but in reality the 22-time grand slam winner was still some way off being ready for a comeback.
Nadal recently tried to quell the reports around his return. "I'm well, training, and happy," he said in Barcelona. "Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I'm still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.
"We know that the pain will never disappear, but I’ve taken a step forward...The steps toward trying to play again have been big and positive, which is what we have been fighting for for several months. I’m confident I’ll be able to say something more specific in the coming weeks.
"I've always maintained hope that I would play again. How much? At what level? It’s difficult to answer that. I never lost hope I'd play. Things gradually become clear with the passing of the weeks. At the moment I’m on the right track."
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley admitted recently that he was confident the Spaniard would make the first grand slam of the year, despite the Spaniard downplaying expectations. Tiley was measured over his recent comments, but reiterated Nadal's desire to play in Australia next year.
"Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day, because he's a massive drawcard for us," Tiley said on Thursday. "He wants to play, he's obviously planning on playing... I'm certain Rafa will be here because he's not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago."
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