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Nadal roars to victory over Thiem in Brisbane singles comeback

file photo: australian open
Spain's Rafael Nadal in action

Rafa Nadal marked his singles comeback after being out injured for nearly a year with a convincing 7-5 6-1 victory over Austrian former world number three Dominic Thiem in the Brisbane International first round on Tuesday.

The 22-times Grand Slam champion had arthroscopic surgery last June after injuring his left hip flexor during his second round defeat by Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open in early 2023.

Nadal returned to competitive tennis in the new season on Sunday and crashed to a doubles defeat while partnering retired veteran Marc Lopez but showed glimpses of his top form ahead of the Jan. 14-28 Melbourne Park major.

“Today is honestly an emotional and important day for me after probably one of the toughest years of my tennis career,” Nadal said.

“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.”

The 37-year-old looked razor sharp again during his latest meeting with qualifier Thiem in a rematch of their 2018 and 2019 French Open finals which he won, as he ramped up the pressure and claimed the opening set with a break.

Roared on by fans inside a heaving Pat Rafter Arena, Nadal grabbed an early break in the second set with a superb backhand pass and barely looked back as he racked up a 5-1 lead before closing out the match on serve.

“I missed being healthy an feeling competitive, playing in front of full crowds that have been amazing all my career here in Australia,” Nadal added.

“I can’t thank everyone enough.”

Nadal‘s 1,069th men’s tour-level victory meant he surpassed Ivan Lendl to sit fourth in the all-time list.

“As you can imagine, today it wasn’t a statistic I was aware of,” Nadal said. “I had enough work just to be focused and come back on court and remember how to play in a competitive match. There were nerves and doubts before the match.

“But things went well and I’m excited to be back.”

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