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Nadal on “Amazing” Comeback and Main Aim

Rafael Nadal rolled past Dominic Thiem in his Brisbane return—and shared his primary goal. 
By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, January 2, 2024
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Playing his first match in nearly a year, Nadal unleashed a tornado of topspin storming through five straight games sweeping aside Dominic Thiem 7-5, 6-1. in his Brisbane opener.

It was a rousing return that left Brisbane fans exhilarated and Nadal and his team, including father Sebastian Nadal, elated.

Afterward, Nadal summed up this comeback win as both “amazing” and “emotional.”

“Always felt well, no, when you have the people supporting, and in this moment even more,” Nadal said. “Have been the longer period of time without being on a professional tournament since I started my tennis career.

“So, yeah, it’s an amazing feeling to come back and to feel the crowd supporting even more than before, no? Have been a lot of effort from my side to try to come back in a professional match, and probably they get that point.”

Bolting a forehand winner down the line helped Nadal break to snare the first set.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion rolled through the second set racking up a historic victory.

This was Nadal’s 1069th Tour-level win, surpassing Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl for fourth sole possession of fourth place on the all-time ATP victory list behind legends Jimmy Connors (1274), Roger Federer (1251), Novak Djokovic (1088).

For Nadal, this win is more than a second-round shot at Aussie wild card Jason Kubler, it’s validation he’s on the right road in what could be his final career comeback.

The 37-year-old Spanish superstar not only defeated 2020 US Open champion Thiem for the 10th time in 16 meetings, he conquered ghosts of self-doubt in his first win since hip surgery last June.

“When you are doing things that you are not used to do, you have more nerves than usual because when you are doing things almost every day, you know more or less what’s going on,” Nadal said of this comeback challenge. “You can play a little bit better, a little bit worse, but you have a standard that you know that you’re going to reach that level.

“In that case it’s a combination of things.

“First thing, the emotions to be back on court after a long time and after a very tough process. Second thing, the doubts about your physical performance. And third thing, it’s about you go on court — I know I have been practicing okay last week, practicing I think at a positive level.

“You go on court, and you have the doubts if you are going to go there and going to be a disaster, because it can happen, honestly. It’s not a thing that I am saying here to protect myself at all. I don’t need it. I am not here to use any excuse at all. No, I know what’s going on.”

The two-time Australian Open champion shared three main goals: stay healthy, enjoy each match moment and be competitive “in a couple of months.”

“It’s only a positive start…it’s just a match,” Nadal said afterward. “First and most important thing today is stay healthy, honestly. I mean, my way to approach that didn’t change at all after this match. My way to approach is just try to enjoy every single day that I have the chance to be on court.

“If I am able to play more matches, will be more helpful in terms of recover things that, of course, you need to recover if you want to be competitive.

“For me my goal is still medium term, in a couple of months to try to be, again, competitive. Now, if I am competitive, fantastic, but it’s something that I, for me, is going to be a big surprise if I am competitive in a good level. Let’s see. Day by day. Today is a positive day. Let’s see after tomorrow.”

Photo credit: Bradley Kanaris/Getty 

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