22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal’s return to competitive action began with a defeat as he and his veteran partner Marc Lopez lost the men’s doubles first-round match at Brisbane International. The Rio Olympic gold medal-winning pair lost in straight sets (6-4, 6-4) to Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson at the Pat Rafter Arena, which was packed to the rafters on Sunday, December 31 in the ATP 250 tournament.
All eyes were on Rafael Nadal as the Spaniard was returning to competitive action for the first time since the Australian Open in 2023. Nadal, whose hip injury flared in the second-round defeat in Melbourne last year, underwent surgery in June and went through a rigorous rehabilitation process.
Nadal had hinted last year that the 2024 season would be his last and when he announced his comeback earlier this month, he said he lowered expectations of himself.
However, Nadal did not show signs of rust or hip concerns as he looked comfortable on the court. Nadal brought his trademark winners and a backhand cross-court shot in the first set caught the attention of tennis fans, sparking hope of a good season for the legend. Nadal was moving well and was also returning well, even from the baseline.
Nadal and his retired partner Lopez, however, went down in straight sets to the local pair, who did not face a break point enroute their 64-minute victory.
“It’s great to see Rafa back. I have been on the receiving end a couple of times in singles so it’s nice to get him back on a doubles court,” Thompson said in an on-court interview.
Nadal would have used the doubles match to test his level ahead of the start of his singes campaign in Brisbane International.
Nadal drew former US Open champion Dominic Thiem in the first round. The wildcard entrant has a 9-5 head-to-head record against Thiem, who won his qualifying matches to enter the main round in the ATP 250 tournament. Nadal faces a tough draw, but the Spaniard will be more than happy if he can notch up a couple of wins and gain confidence from his campaign ahead of Australian Open, starting January 14.