Rafa Nadal serves at the 2023 Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal will start his tennis comeback in Brisbane ahead of 2024's Australian Open. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Nadal to return in Brisbane’s Australian Open warm-up

Ian Chadband December 2, 2023

Rafael Nadal has announced he will make his eagerly awaited tennis comeback at the Brisbane International in January after almost a year’s away from the sport.

The Spanish great declared on Friday that he intends to make his return at the Australian Open warm-up event.

The 37-year-old hasn’t played a competitive match since getting knocked out in the second round of this year’s Open in Melbourne by American Mackenzie McDonald when struggling with an injured hip.

“Hello everyone. After a year away from competition it’s time to come back,” Nadal said in a video message on social media on Friday.

“I will be in Brisbane the first week of January. I’ll see you there.”

The appearance could be the start of a farewell tour for the 22-time grand slam singles winner, whose ranking has plummeted to 663 after his 18-year stay in the top 10 ended in March.

Nadal says he plans to play the French Open and represent his country at the Paris Olympics next year before retiring after 23 seasons on tour.

“We are thrilled to have Rafa make his return to tennis here in Brisbane and know his fans will be very excited,” Brisbane International Tournament Director Cam Pearson said.

“We know how hard Rafa has been working to get back playing, so to see him out on court for the first time in 12 months here in Brisbane will be very special.”

Rafael Nadal after winning his second Australian Open in 2022.
 Rafael Nadal after winning the second of his Australian Open titles in 2022. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

It’s been a long, hard fight for the champion to return to action after he had initially expected to miss eight weeks of action after Melbourne. He ended up undergoing surgery on the hip in June.

Nadal missed the French Open, the tournament he’s won a record 14 times, and announced at the time: “You never know how things will turn out, but my intention is that next year will be my last year.”

Last month, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed Nadal, twice a winner of the event, would be back at Melbourne for the season’s first grand slam.

The Brisbane event – from December 31 and January 7 – will be the key test of whether Nadal is ready to shoot for a hat-trick of Open titles at Melbourne Park in the January 14 to 28 slam.

The Spanish star’s presence offers a huge boost to the Brisbane International tune-up, which is returning after a three-year absence brought on initially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event had already enjoyed a coup by enticing former world No.1 Naomi Osaka to make her comeback there following the birth of her first child in July.

Other grand slam champions including Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka, Elena Rybakina and reigning Australian Open title-holder Aryna Sabalenka have also signed up for the Queensland tournament.