Rafael Nadal was more worried than usual ahead of his first competitive encounter in almost a year, owing to the longest layoff in his professional career. The 22-time major champion showed no signs of rust in a 7-5, 6-1 win against Dominic Thiem at the Brisbane International on Tuesday. Thiem won the US Open in 2020 and has a career-high No. 3 ranking but is recovering from injury.
“Today is honestly an emotional and important day for me,” Nadal said. “And to play at the very positive level on the first day is something that probably makes [me] feel proud. It’s been the longest period of time without being in a professional tournament since I started my tennis career, so, yeah, it’s an amazing feeling to come back.”
Nadal hadn’t played a singles match at the highest level since suffering a hip injury in the second round of the Australian Open last January. That time off did not appear to slow him down. Also read: Coach Carlos Moya Has Fear About Rafael Nadal Australian Open Comeback
Nadal, 37, committed only a few unforced errors, dropped only six points on his serve throughout the match, and hit some magnificent forehand winners.
He broke at 6-5 in the first set and controlled the final stages of the match, winning eight of the last nine games
“You go on court and you have more nerves than usual because you [are] really at the end [of rehab and] hope that you’re going to play at this level, but inside yourself you know that [it] can be a disaster and that, of course, worried me.” Also read: Jimmy Connors Net Worth 2024, Annual Income, Endorsements, Cars, Houses, Properties, Charities, Etc.
“I didn’t make a lot of bad decisions choosing the shots that I have to play, and that’s something difficult after such a long time,” he said. “Something that I’m happy with.”
Nadal will face Australian wild card Jason Kubler, who was tied at 6-4, 6-7 (4) with Aslan Karatsev when the No. 8 seed retired injured.
Rain halted play on the outside courts for the second day in a row, but it continued in the Pat Rafter Arena. Yannick Hanfmann of Germany defeated fifth-seeded Sebastian Korda 7-5, 6-4 in the first round of the day.
In the women’s bracket, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin was knocked out in the second round by No. 113-ranked Arina Rodionova, 7-5, 7-6 (7). Also read: Wimbledon’s Grand Vision: A New Stadium and 38 Courts