Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal’s first match back after a 12-month injury layoff ended in defeat when he and doubles partner Marc Lopez went down to Australian pair Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell on Sunday.
The Australian duo were too consistent, winning their Brisbane International first-round match 6-4, 6-4 on Pat Rafter Arena.
Nadal looked sharp on the court and appeared to have no issues with his movement after the long lay-off for a hip problem.
He takes to the singles court on Tuesday against former US Open champion Dominic Thiem of Austria.
Prior to the match, Rafael Nadal left the door ajar to continue after the 2024 season but conceded there was “a high percentage” that he was on his last trip as a player to Australia.
Speaking ahead of his comeback from a 12-month injury absence at the season-opening Brisbane International, the 37-year-old Spaniard said he did not know for sure what the future held.
“The problem about saying that’s going to be my last season is I can’t predict what’s going on 100 percent in the future,” he said.
“That’s why I say ‘probably’. It’s obvious it’s a high percentage that it’s going to be my last time playing here in Australia.
“But if I am here next year, don’t tell me, ‘You said it was going to be your last season’, because I didn’t say it.
“You never know what’s going on, you know? I can’t predict how I’m going to be in the next six months. I can’t predict if my body will allow me to enjoy tennis as much as I enjoyed the past 20 years.
“It’s not an easy decision, but I know inside myself that it is a high percentage that it’s going to be my last one.”
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The 22-time Grand Slam champion said that the last year, with surgery for a hip injury, had been tough and he contemplated quitting at one point during his recovery.
But he said he had never lost his love for the sport, which motivated him to keep going.
“Of course I was asking myself that (about retirement), but at some point I decided to keep going. I had the determination to keep going.”
Rafael Nadal, who has been sidelined since injuring his hip at the 2023 Australian Open, begins his singles comeback against a qualifier in the first round in Brisbane.
He will make a low-key return later Sunday when he plays doubles.
Asked whether he identified with Naomi Osaka, who on Saturday admitted she had fallen out of love with tennis during her break from the tour, Nadal said that was not the case for him.
“She got tired or lost a little bit of motivation for the game,” he said.
“That never happened to me. I had to be away because my body was not able to keep going.”
Nadal said the long absence had allowed his body to heal and he no longer woke up every morning in pain, but he had no expectations heading into the new season and would take it week by week.
“Competing is different than practising, but in terms of practising with the guys here, I am quite happy because I feel competitive against the players that I played in practice,” he said.
“Of course, I don’t have the expectations that I used to have in the past.
“It’s obvious, no? It’s one year (away). It’s surgery. For me, it is a little bit unpredictable how things are going to be.”