Rafael Nadal's Hard Court Gamble: Mouratoglou Surprised by Risky Move

Rafael Nadal returned to action in Brisbane after missing almost a year

by Jovica Ilic
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Rafael Nadal's Hard Court Gamble: Mouratoglou Surprised by Risky Move
© Chris Hyde / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal missed almost a year due to a severe hip injury. Nadal picked Brisbane as his first stop in 2024, winning two encounters before blowing three match points against Jordan Thompson. Rafa experienced a minor muscle tear around his troubled hip, underwent an MRI, and decided to skip the Australian Open.

Nadal's decision to compete on hard court surprised Patrick Mouratoglou, who expected him to miss Australia and return to action during the South American clay swing in February. Rafa felt well on the practice court in the closing stages of last year, setting his comeback event for the first week of 2024.

A 22-time Major winner presented his good-old determination and desire, playing well in the opening two encounters and making his fans thrilled. They even started thinking about the title and a good Australian Open run before everything fell apart in that mind-blowing quarter-final clash that sent Rafa home.

Patrick Mouratoglou shared his thoughts about Rafael Nadal's comeback.

Nadal met Dominic Thiem in his first match after 349 days, outplaying his old rival with a fine performance. The Spaniard served well and tamed his strokes nicely.

He broke the Austrian's resistance in the opening set's closing stages, dominating set number two and sailing over the top. The veteran kept that pace in the second round and ousted Jason Kubler in straight sets to advance into the quarter-final.

The shots were there again, and Rafa served at a high level to leave the rival behind. However, Nadal experienced a massive blow against Jordan Thompson, squandering three match points in the second set and falling 5-7, 7-6, 6-3.

They battled for almost three and a half hours, and Rafa's body could not endure that stress. The Spaniard felt the pain around his left hip in the decider, requiring a medical timeout and skipping the Australian Open a couple of days later.

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

Rafa missed his opportunities in the second set, blowing the first match point on the return at 5-4 and earning two more in the tie break.

The Spaniard sprayed a forehand error on the second, keeping the Aussie in contention before losing the breaker 8-6. Jordan became the favorite ahead of the decider, breaking Rafa in game five and moving in front. Nadal asked for a medical timeout and kept fighting, losing 6-3 and propelling his rival through.

Rafa is yet to reveal his next steps, and we could see him competing in South America on clay in a couple of weeks if he recovers from an injury. "Rafa made a risky move, returning to play a hard-court Major after an injury.

I thought he would skip Australia and return on clay in South America before continuing on the same surface in Europe," Patrick Mouratoglou said.

Rafael Nadal Mouratoglou
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