In his return to tennis at the Brisbane International, Rafael Nadal prevailed in the first round of his singles matchup, winning 7-5 6-1 over former world No. 3 Dominic Thiem. Nadal's victory was a resounding return to competition after a hip injury sidelined him for virtually all of last year, as well as a great start to what is expected to be the 37-year-old Spaniard's final season.
After losing in doubles while partnered with Marc Lopez, Nadal flashed his old form in a rematch of the 2018 and 2019 French Open finals, claiming the opening set on a break before pouring it on in the second set, taking a 5-1 lead before closing it out with a serve. The victory was Nadal's 1,069th, moving him to fourth on the all-time wins list.
"Today is honestly an emotional and important day for me after probably one of the toughest years of my tennis career," Nadal said, per Reuters."I had the chance to come back after a year and play in front of an amazing crowd and play at a very positive level on the first day is something that makes us feel proud -- my team and family who have been there every day in the last year."
After losing in the second round of the Australian Open as he was hampered by injury, Nadal had initially expected to return to competition in the latter part of 2023. That never ended up materializing, as Nadal was kept out of action for the remainder of the season after undergoing hip surgery in June. Following the Brisbane International, Nadal is expected to make his Grand Slam return in the 2024 edition of the Australian Open.
After withdrawing from the French Open in May, Nadal had said he expects to retire following the 2024 season, adding that his motivation would be "to try and enjoy and say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important to me." Nadal's 22 Grand Slam titles rank second all-time only to Novak Djokovic, with Roger Federer -- another all-time great and a contemporary of both players -- just behind in third.