Rafael Nadal turned his comeback campaign in Brisbane into a bitter-sweet one. A 22-time Major champion competed for the first time in almost a year, winning two matches before blowing three match points in the quarter-final and feeling the pain again.
Rafa had to withdraw from the Australian Open, returning home and hoping to heal a micro tear on his muscle and compete again. Mats Wilander was thrilled to see Nadal in action again, and he wants to keep a positive memory of the legend’s Brisbane campaign.
Wilander will push the withdrawal aside while remembering Rafa’s fighting spirit, his good old sweating and desire. Nadal experienced a terrible hip injury a year ago, losing in the second round of the Australian Open and embracing the most extended break of his career.
The Spaniard underwent surgery in June and returned to the practice court a couple of months later, eager to expand his tennis journey. Feeling positive signs on the court and the gym, Nadal set his comeback event for Brisbane at the start of 2024, keen to test his body and compete again.
Mats Wilander wants to keep a happy memory of Rafael Nadal in Brisbane.
Rafa faced Dominic Thiem in his comeback match, playing like he never left! The Spaniard served well and tamed his strokes nicely, breaking the Austrian’s resistance in the opening set’s closing stages and dominating set number two.
After a similar performance, the veteran overpowered Jason Kubler in the second round, looking good ahead of the quarter-final clash. However, Nadal experienced a massive blow against Jordan Thompson, squandering three match points in a 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 loss.
The encounter lasted three and a half hours, and Rafa could not endure it without feeling the pain around his troubled hip. It was a micro tear on his muscle, but it still forced him to withdraw from the Australian Open, unable to endure the best-of-five efforts.
Both players scored two breaks, and the Spaniard missed his chances in the second set.
They fought like lions in the opening two sets, spending over two and a half hours on the court!
Nadal claimed the opener with a late break and earned a match point on the return at 5-4 in the second. Rafa squandered it after missing a behind-the-back volley winner, keeping Jordan in contention. Nadal made a fresh start, creating two more match points at 6-4 in the tie break.
He sprayed a massive forehand error on the second, and it would cost him dearly. Thompson survived and stole the breaker 8-6, becoming the favorite ahead of the decider. Losing pace and energy, Nadal got broken in the final set’s fifth game before asking for a medical timeout.
Rafa battled until the end, losing 6-3 and revealing terrible news after further MRI checkings in Melbourne. “Seeing Rafa play in Brisbane was brilliant, bringing the old passion and sweating like no one else. That’s the memory I will keep, a battling Rafa missing match points, not the one about the Australian Open withdrawal,” Mats Wilander.