Rafael Nadal announces comeback with superb win over Dominic Thiem

Rafael Nadal announces comeback with superb win over Dominic Thiem

After nearly a year out of tennis, Rafael Nadal silenced his doubters when he reeled off a straight-set victory over Dominic Theim in round one of the Brisbane International on Tuesday.

The 22-time grand slam champion had not played since damaging his hip during a second-round match at the 2023 Australian Open.

But, with this year's Melbourne major on the horizon, he gave a timely reminder of his talents with a box-office performance en route to an impressive 7-5 6-1 success in an hour and 29 minutes.

"Today is honestly an emotional and important day for me after probably one of the toughest years of my tennis career without a doubt," Nadal said on court following the victory.

"To have the chance to come back after a year and play in front of an amazing crowd and play at a very positive level is something that probably makes us feel proud - myself, all the team, family that have been there every single day during the last year.

"I missed being healthy, I missed feeling myself competitive and playing in front of full crowds like this.

"Things went well and I'm excited to be back again tomorrow."

Ahead of his long-awaited comeback, Nadal said it was "impossible" for him to contemplate winning tournaments.

There was little between the pair in the opening set before the Spaniard sealed a decisive break of serve by capitalising on his fourth set point.

Austrian Thiem, the 2020 US Open champion, had barely put a foot wrong at that stage but was quickly facing an early exit.

Nadal backed up seizing the initiative by asserting his authority on the contest with another break of serve early in the second set.

The 37-year-old, who underwent hip surgery last summer, then won four of the next five games to secure a statement victory at the end of his lengthy spell on the sidelines.

He will face either Russian eighth seed Aslan Karatsev or Australian wildcard Jason Kubler in round two.

"The support is super important, especially in the low moments," added Nadal.

"I had the chance to receive thousands of messages during all of this year and having great people next to me every single day makes the difference without a doubt.

"I don't have a real test about how the level was, I have been too long outside. The first set was very equal, both us serving very well. Then I was able to have that break at 6-5, so that makes the difference.

"I know Dominic has been going through some hard times with injuries too so I'm happy to see him on court and I wish him all the very best for the season."

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