Mats Wilander Recognizes Rafael Nadal as Tennis' Most Important Player

Mats Wilander praised Rafael Nadal and his legacy

by Jovica Ilic
Mats Wilander Recognizes Rafael Nadal as Tennis' Most Important Player
© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal stayed away from the court for almost a year before making a promising return in Brisbane. A 22-time Major winner scored two wins en route to the quarter-final, suffering another blow against Jordan Thompson and returning to Spain without playing at the Australian Open.

The 37-year-old revealed a micro tear on his muscle in the same area as last year's hip injury, although he should be fine to compete again soon. Mats Wilander would love to see Nadal with a perfect farewell as the one Roger Federer had at the Laver Cup.

Mats labeled Rafa as one of the most important players in tennis history, praising everything he has done and repeating the Spaniard deserves a perfect ending to his incredible career. Nadal injured his left hip at last year's Australian Open, skipping the rest of the season and enduring the longest break of his career.

Rafa underwent surgery in June and trained well in the closing stages of 2023, setting his return for Brisbane in the first week of the new season.

Mats Wilander said great words about Rafael Nadal.

Nadal played his first match in 349 days against his old rival Dominic Thiem.

The legend looked sharp and confident, playing like he never left in a straight-sets triumph. Rafa moved and hit well, delivering a late break in the opener and storming over Dominic in set number two. Jason Kubler could not challenge Nadal in the second round, with the Spaniard dominating on serve and return for a comfortable win and a place in the quarter-final, giving his fans something to cheer about.

Rafa's dream comeback ended against Jordan Thompson, squandering three match points in a 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 loss after three hours and 25 minutes. Nadal could not bring the intensity from the previous two matches, struggling behind the second serve and losing steam.

Rafa faced only three break points, losing serve two times and converting six out of eight return chances.

Rafael Nadal, Brisbane 2024© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

The opening set went down to the wire, and Nadal claimed it with a late break.

They stayed neck and neck in the second set, and Rafa could have sealed the deal in straight sets. The Spaniard squandered a match point at 5-4 on the return, missing a behind-the-back volley winner and keeping the Aussie alive.

Rafa earned two more match points at 6-4 in the tie break, spraying a massive forehand error that would cost him dearly. Thompson prevailed 8-6, forcing a decider and becoming the favorite. Jordan broke in the final set's fifth game, and Rafa asked for a medical timeout, feeling the pain around his left hip again.

The veteran endured until the end, falling 6-3 and returning home instead of competing at the upcoming Australian Open. "Rafa should have his desired farewell as Roger had at the Laver Cup. Rafa could play at Roland Garros one more time, win a couple of matches and lose to some young gun or Novak Djokovic.

Rafa is one of the greatest players ever and maybe the most important professional tennis player in history," Mats Wilander said.

Mats Wilander Rafael Nadal