MELBOURNE: Rafael Nadal will return to Grand Slam action at the Australian Open in January, tournament director Craig Tiley said today, for what will almost certainly be the Spaniard’s farewell to Melbourne.
Nadal responded on social media by thanking the tournament for their “confidence” in him, albeit without confirming if he would appear.
The 22-time Grand Slam winner has not played since his second-round loss to American Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open in January this year because of a hip injury.
The 37-year-old has twice undergone surgery during his long rehabilitation and said last month that he was still aiming to finish his career in 2024.
“Our 2022 champion Rafa Nadal has been working hard on his rehab for most of this year,” said Tiley, who also expects home favourite Nick Kyrgios to return from injury.
“He (Nadal) always brings his best to Melbourne and no one can doubt how hard he competes.
“I’ve been in touch with his team and he’s now back on the court and looking forward to returning to Melbourne in January.”
Nadal has refused to set deadlines for himself during his road to recovery.
“I appreciate the vote of confidence from the Australian Open…I am practising every day and working hard to come back ASAP,” wrote Nadal on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Organisers will hope that Nadal’s highly anticipated return will offer a challenge to the dominance of Novak Djokovic, the reigning champion and 10-time winner in Melbourne.
Kyrgios also poses a potential threat to Djokovic after undergoing knee surgery this year.
However, Nadal has said his main desire is to be able to compete, rather than expecting further silverware.
“My hope is not to return to win Roland Garros or win (in) Australia, so that people are not confused, all that is a long way off,” Nadal said in September.
“I am well aware of the difficulties that I face, one is insurmountable, that is age, and the other are physical problems.
“What makes me hopeful is to play again, to be competitive again.”