Rafael Nadal made an impressive comeback after missing almost a year due to a hip injury. Rafa returned to action in Brisbane and toppled Dominic Thiem 7-5, 6-1 in an hour and 29 minutes. A six-time Major champion Boris Becker praised the Spaniard's performance after such an extended break, calling it absolutely amazing.
Rafa did not know what to expect after missing almost an entire 2023, working hard on the practice court and hoping to enjoy his comeback. Nadal delighted himself and his fans with a rock-solid performance against Thiem, playing well on serve and return and making a winning return.
Rafa's serve worked like a charm, dropping six points in his games and never facing a break point. Dominic could not follow those numbers, staying in touch until 5-5 in the opener before getting broken three times. It was their 16th duel, and Nadal celebrated his tenth victory, taming his strokes nicely and looking sharp and focused, just like he never took a break.
Rafa was off to a reliable start, serving at 70% in the opening set and feeling no pressure in his games.
Boris Becker praised Rafael Nadal after his first match in almost a year.
Nadal landed a service winner in the encounter's first game, holding at love and gaining a necessary boost.
Thiem responded with an ace in game two, leveling the score at 1-1. Rafa covered the net nicely in the third game, earning three game points and holding at love with a volley winner at the net. The Austrian closed the fourth game with a volley winner before the Spaniard passed him at the net in the next one for another reliable hold and 3-2.
Dominic followed that pace, feeling no issues on his serve in games six and eight for 4-4 after 33 minutes. A left-hander moved 5-4 in front with an ace, keeping the pressure on the other side. Dominic responded with a forehand down the line winner in game ten, locking the result at 5-5 and extending the drama.
Nadal kept a steady course behind the initial shot in game 11, firing a forehand down the line winner and building the sixth advantage.
Thiem served to stay in the set for the second time at 5-6 and cracked under pressure.
Dominic faced three set points and denied them to prolong his chances. Rafa created the fourth set point with a forehand winner and seized it after Dominic's wayward forehand, taking the opener 7-5 after 55 minutes. Delivering one good hold after another, Nadal held at love at the beginning of the second set and pushed strong on the return in game two.
Rafa passed Dominic at the net with a booming backhand crosscourt winner, moving a set and a break in front. Nadal held at love again in the third game, moving closer to the finish line after 70 minutes. Thiem reduced the deficit to 3-1 with a reliable hold in game four, but his return game was not there.
The Spaniard grabbed the fifth game from 15-30 thanks to a service winner, moving 4-1 ahead. Nadal earned a break chance in game six with a deep return and seized it after Thiem's loose forehand. Rafa served for the victory at 5-1 and moved over the top with a crafty winner at the net, securing a place in the second round.