A 22-time Major winner Rafael Nadal is finally back! After not playing for almost a year, Rafa made a winning return in Brisbane, beating Dominic Thiem 7-5, 6-1 in the first round. It's Nadal's first ATP victory since last year's Australian Open, leaving a hip injury behind and hoping for a good run in the rest of the season.
Rafa secured an ATP win for the 23rd straight season, extending his incredible legacy despite numerous setbacks and issues. Nadal ousted Thiem for the tenth time in 16 duels, facing the Austrian for the first time since the 2020 ATP Finals.
Dominic defeated Rafa two times in 2020, but he could not repeat that today, experiencing a late break in the opener and failing to follow the rival's pace in the second set.
Rafael Nadal is off to a winning start in Brisbane.
Rafa served at 70% in the opener and barely lost a point behind the initial shot, keeping the pressure on the other side. Nadal played well in his first service game in almost a year, holding at love in the encounter's first game with a booming serve.
Dominic held at 15 in the second game before Rafa landed a volley winner at the net a few minutes later for 2-1. The Spaniard passed the rival at the net with a crafty backhand in game five, serving well and keeping the pressure on the other side.
Thiem endured and locked the result at 3-3 with another reliable service game. There was nothing to separate them in the upcoming games, and Nadal cracked a forehand down the line winner for a hold at love in game 11.
Thiem served to introduce a tie break and cracked under pressure.
Rafa wasted three set points before earning the fourth with a forehand down the line winner. Thiem missed a routine forehand, losing serve and handing the opener to his rival after 55 minutes. A left-hander held at love at the beginning of the second set and fired a backhand crosscourt bullet in game two for a break and a 7-5, 2-0 advantage.
The Spaniard forced the Austrian's mistake in the third game, holding at love and cementing the lead. Rafa held at 30 in game five and clinched another break in the next one, serving for the victory at 5-1. The Spaniard earned match points with a booming serve and seized the first to emerge at the top and celebrate the victory.