World number 8 Holger Rune has backed 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal to make a strong comeback, saying he was moving really well in practice. Nadal is set to make a return after nearly a year on the sidelines, at the Brisbane International in Australia.
Nadal hasn’t played any form of competitive tennis since crashing out of the 2023 Australian Open second round after losing to Mackenzie McDonald.
Nadal missed the French Open, US Open and Wimbledon amidst his recovery to get fit. During this while, he also dropped out of the top 100 for the first time in 20 years.
Rune had practised with Nadal ahead of the Brisbane International, and was left impressed by the progress that the Spaniard had made. The Brisbane International is underway but Nadal will play his first match on January 2 against Dominic Thiem.
“It’s funny, after the practice today I talked to my team and I thought he (Nadal) played unbelievable. He was hitting strong, he always used to hit strong also. But then we started points and I thought he was moving really well, moving side to side extremely fast and I think the intensity he brings is incredible,” said Rune.
Rune said the practice with Nadal was probably the best he’s had in the last half-year. If Nadal manages to beat Thiem, he will face the winner between Australia’s Jason Kubler and Russia’s Aslan Karatsev in the second round.
“I think I’ve been playing a very intense pre-season and a very intense end of the season last year and that was probably the hardest practice I’ve had the last half year, I would say,” Rune added.
Nadal will also play the 2023 Australian Open, having made his way in on the basis of Protected Ranking along with Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic, USA’s Reilly Opelka and Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely.