Rafael Nadal announces Brisbane comeback

Sidelined since January, the Mallorca native will make his competitive return Down Under in early 2024.

Rafael Nadal / Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Such a champion. Such a warrior. Rafael Nadal deserves to wave goodbye to professional tennis on his own terms.

In an early Christmas present for the sporting world and his legion of fans worldwide, the Spaniard will be flexing his trademark bicep celebration next season.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner posted a video on social media on Friday, confirming his long-awaited return to match action.

"Hello everyone. After a year away from competition, it's time to come back," the 37-year-old said to camera.

"It will be in Brisbane the first week of January (Dec 31 – Jan 7). I'll see you there."

What a coup for the Brisbane International, which is back on the ATP calendar for the first time since 2019.

Long road back for Rafa

Nadal, the most successful player in Roland-Garros history (14 titles), last competed as a world No.2 at the 2023 Australian Open.

The Spaniard battled on with a hip injury in the second round, but succumbed to American Mackenzie McDonald in straight sets on January 18.

A stint on the sidelines was inevitable.

Fast forward to May and he had to pull out of Roland-Garros, denying a title defence for the much-heralded 'King of Clay'.

“Next year, that’s probably going to be my last year in a professional tour,” revealed Nadal during a press conference in his native Mallorca.

“That’s my idea, even that I can’t say 100 percent that’s going to be like this, because you never know what can happen, but my idea and my motivation is try to enjoy and try to say goodbye of all the tournaments that have been important for me in my tennis career."

Into June and the 'Big 3' great had to have hip surgery to treat the torn iliopsoas muscle sustained at the Australian Open.

“They told me that if I didn’t have the operation I wouldn’t recover even if I stopped for a long time. I took the decision, and the operation went well, but it’s a long time," Nadal explained during an interview for Movistar + in September.

“My hope is to play again, to be competitive again. The hope is not returning and winning at Roland-Garros again, or in Australia, let’s get that straight. I’m aware that at this point of my life, that is very far off.

"I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’ve said it thousands of times, because things in sport change very quickly."

In the past couple of months, the 37-year-old has boosted his fans with several social media posts from his practices and rigorous workouts at his academy. For a player who has endured so many injuries, Nadal is the expert at a comeback.

Still, this process took another relentless day-to-day schedule for the current world No.663, with gruelling hours in the gym and in recovery routines alongside his tennis training.

Down Under delight

Thankfully Nadal's hall-of-fame career can have a fitting end in 2024.

Kick-starting his campaign in Brisbane, Nadal will target another title tilt on the sea-blue hard courts at the Australian Open from January 14.

Following the first Grand Slam of the season in Melbourne, Nadal's schedule is unclear. However, what is crystal clear is the tennis world will be unanimously thrilled to welcome back one of the all-time greatest.

You can already hear the first "Vamos!"

Rafael Nadal / Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT