A 22-time Major winner Rafael Nadal should compete at next year's Australian Open! The tournament director, Craig Tiley, confirmed the news, staying in touch with Rafa in the last couple of days and confirming the Spaniard's participation at the first Major event of 2024.
Rafa has not played since this year's Australian Open, injuring his hip and missing the rest of the year. Nadal is back on the practice court, hoping to recover and make another push in the upcoming season, eager to retire on his terms.
Rafa delivered his first Australian Open title in 2009 over Roger Federer, lifting the second trophy 13 years later! Nadal took down Daniil Medvedev in that memorable 2022 final, trailing 6-2, 7-6, 3-2, 30-0 before embracing one of his career-best comebacks.
Thus, he became the first player with 21 Major titles, leaving Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on 20. Rafa returned to Melbourne as the top seed this January in the absence of Carlos Alcaraz, struggling with injuries for months but wishing to give himself a chance.
Rafa passed the opening obstacle before losing in the second round, experiencing his earliest Major loss since 2016! Nadal beat Jack Draper in the first round before falling to Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in the second.
Rafa suffered a left hip injury in the second set's closing stages and fought until the end, refusing to retire.
Rafael Nadal should be back on the court at the beginning of 2024.
McDonald tamed his strokes nicely and stayed focused against the rival who could not play his best.
The American broke Nadal five times and lost serve two times to control the pace. The lower-ranked player made a flying start and broke Rafa in the opener's games one and five for 4-1 in under 20 minutes. Nadal reduced the deficit with a break in game six before McDonald fended off a break point at 5-4 to bring the set home.
The second set saw back-to-back breaks in the early stage. Rafa squandered a game point at 3-3 and lost serve to fall behind. The American landed an ace in the eighth game to confirm the advantage, and the Spaniard asked for a medical timeout on his left hip.
Rafa continued and held in game nine to prolong the set. However, McDonald brought it home after Nadal's tired forehand at 5-4, driving closer to the finish line. Rafa continued and gave his best in the third set, fighting like a true champion despite struggling to move or hit a backhand.
He fired an ace on a break point at 4-4 and held to extend the battle. Mackenzie placed a backhand down the line winner in game 11 to grab a decisive break and serve for the victory. The American landed a service winner to seal the deal and send the Spaniard packing. It remains Nadal's most recent match, struggling to recover and missing the rest of the season.
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