Rafael Nadal plots return to tennis in Brisbane after year stuck on sidelines

<span>Photograph: Hamish Blair/AP</span>
Photograph: Hamish Blair/AP

Rafael Nadal will return to professional tennis in January after a year-long layoff as he seeks a fitting end to his legendary career.

Nadal, a 22-time grand slam champion, has not competed since the Australian Open in January, where he lost in the second round to Mackenzie McDonald after suffering a hip injury.

Related: WTA will not punish players taking part in Russian tennis exhibition

In a video on X (formerly Twitter), Nadal announced that he will be returning at the Brisbane International. “After a year away from competition, it’s time to come back. It will be in Brisbane, the first week of January. I’ll see you there,” he said.

Nadal’s hip injury became a significant concern after it failed to sufficiently heal following the initial prognosis of a six- to eight-week layoff. Nadal eventually announced his withdrawal from the French Open, where he is a 14-time champion, and he underwent arthroscopic surgery.

The injury was the latest in a seemingly endless list throughout Nadal’s career. Since the Covid hiatus, where the lockdown periods led to the recurrence of his chronic foot injury, Nadal has struggled to remain fit for any extended period of time.

With the mental and physical toll of his injuries also affecting his general happiness, Nadal announced in May that 2024 would likely be his last year on the tour. “My idea, my motivation is to try to say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important for me in my career and just enjoy being competitive and being on court, which today is not possible,” he said.

In September, though, Nadal was more uncertain about what his 2024 season could hold. The 37-year-old said that his primary motivation was to “be competitive” again, but while winning Roland Garros or another major title seems unlikely at this point, he is aware how quickly things can change.

“I said that 2024 is likely to be my last year and I stand by that. But I cannot confirm it 100%. Even I don’t know,” he said.

For Nadal, the big questions will be his level of play and how his body holds up again to the rigours of professional tennis. If it seems clear that he can no longer compete, the Paris Games at Roland Garros are a perfect exit ramp for the two-time Olympic gold medallist. But after all that Nadal has achieved in his career, a few more miracles can never be ruled out.