Rafael Nadal's Winning Start: A Cautious Climb Back to the Top

Rafael Nadal made a winning return after missing a year

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal's Winning Start: A Cautious Climb Back to the Top
© Bradley Kanaris / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

After playing only four matches in 2023 due to a severe hip injury, Rafael Nadal is back on track. A 22-time Major winner made a winning start in Brisbane, ousting Dominic Thiem 7-5, 6-1 in an hour and 29 minutes. Nadal did everything right in his first match after 349 days, controlling the pace and playing well on serve and return.

However, the Spaniard wants to avoid the euphoria, taking one match at a time and thinking only about staying healthy. Rafa expected anything after the most extended break of his career, but he competed like he never left!

Nadal avoided errors and kept everything under control in his games. Pushing hard on the return in the second part of the duel, the veteran grabbed three breaks and sailed over the finish line. Rafa served and moved well, and his groundstrokes overpowered Dominic in their 16th duel.

Nadal produced a fine hold at the beginning of the match and gained a boost. Thiem grabbed the second game with an ace before the Spaniard moved 2-1 in front with a volley winner.

Rafael Nadal takes one step at a time following a severe injury.

Rafael Nadal, Brisbane 2024© Bradley Kanaris / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

They served well in the following games, and Dominic brought them to 4-4 after 33 minutes.

Rafa moved 5-4 up with an ace, keeping the pressure on the other side. Thiem served well in game ten, and Nadal moved 6-5 up with a forehand down the line winner. The Austrian served to stay in the set for the second time and cracked under pressure.

Thiem saved three set points before Nadal seized the fourth when his rival sprayed a forehand error, taking the opener 7-5 and gaining momentum. Maintaining a high level, Rafa held at love at the start of the second set and passed Dominic with a powerful backhand crosscourt in the next one to secure a break.

Nadal forged a 3-0 advantage with a hold at love, sailing toward the finish line. Rafa held from 15-30 in the fifth game, keeping his initial shot intact and pressuring Dominic. The Austrian missed another forehand in the sixth game, experiencing a break and falling 5-1 behind.

Nadal served for the victory in game seven and emerged at the top with a winner at the net, celebrating his first victory in almost a year. "It's just one match, and it does not change anything. I look forward to the next challenge.

I had doubts, but it all came out nicely. I still know how to play tennis, and the most important thing is to remain healthy," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal