Rafael Nadal.
Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Australian Open due to a hip injury. Image by Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Hip injury forces Nadal out of Australian Open

January 7, 2024

Rafael Nadal’s illustrious tennis career may be over after the living legend was forced out of the Australian Open with a hip injury.

In a devastating blow for fans and officials, Nadal revealed on social media on Sunday night he was flying home to Spain to see his doctor.

The 22-time grand slam champion had hip surgery in June and hadn’t played since last year’s Australian Open until returning at the season-opening Brisbane International. 

“Hi all, during my last match in Brisbane I had a small problem on a muscle that as you know made me worried,” Nadal posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“Once I got to Melbourne I have had the chance to make an MRI and I have micro tear on a muscle, not in the same part where I had the injury and that’s good news.

“Right now I am not ready to compete at the maximum level of exigence (sic, excellence) in 5 sets matches. 

“I’m flying back to Spain to see my doctor, get some treatment and rest.”

Nadal and Jordan Thompson shake hands after their match.
 Nadal received treatment during his loss to Australia’s Jordan Thompson (R) in Brisbane on Friday. Image by Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS 

Nadal’s withdrawal will inevitably raise concerns over the 37-year-old former world No.1’s ability – and desire – to return to the sport.

He didn’t play a match for almost a year and has already battled on for almost a decade longer than many expected.

After winning his first slam as a teenager, Nadal endured endless knee injuries that most thought would end his career before the age of 30.  

The warrior’s latest setback comes after an initially impressive return to the court, with Nadal looking ominous in first and second-round wins before he was physically tested in a three-and-a-half hour battle with Australian Jordan Thompson that finished late on Friday night.

Nadal, who had three match points in that clash, suffered his injury in the defeat.

He received treatment and finished the match before disclosing his fears, given the pain was in the region of the hip that he chose to have operated on to continue his career.

Nadal had been watering down expectations but his level of play had inspired discussion that he could challenge 24-time major winner Novak Djokovic in Melbourne later this month.

The mighty Mallorcan’s main focus remains the French Open, which he has won a staggering 14 times. It starts on May 20.

“I have worked very hard during the year for this comeback and as I always mentioned my goal is to be at my best level in three months,” he wrote.

“Within the sad news for me for not being able to play in front of the amazing Melbourne crowds, this is not very bad news and we all remain positive with the evolution for the season.

“I really wanted to play here in Australia and I have had the chance to play a few matches that made me very happy and positive.

“Thanks all for the support and see you soon.”