Rafael Nadal, in an emotionally charged comeback, defeats Dominic Thiem to mark his return to singles competition.

Rafael Nadal made a triumphant comeback after a year-long absence due to injury, defeating Dominic Thiem in a thrilling first-round match at the Brisbane International. The 22-time Grand Slam champion had not played since hurting his hip in the 2023 Australian Open.

But as this year’s Melbourne major approaches, Nadal showcased his skills and entertained the crowd with an exceptional performance, securing a 7-5 6-1 victory in just under 90 minutes.

“Today is truly an emotional and significant day for me, considering it has been one of the toughest years of my tennis career,” Nadal expressed on the court following his win. “To have the opportunity to come back after a year and play in front of an amazing crowd at such a high level is something that makes me, my team, and my family proud. They have been there for me every single day in the past year. I missed being healthy, competitive, and playing in front of packed crowds like this. Things went well, and I am excited to be back again tomorrow.”

Prior to his highly anticipated return, Nadal believed winning tournaments was “impossible.” However, he proved doubters wrong with a decisive break of serve, capitalizing on his fourth set point to win the closely contested opening set.

Thiem, the 2020 US Open champion from Austria, had performed excellently up until that point, but soon found himself on the verge of an early exit. Nadal further solidified his dominance in the second set, breaking serve early on and winning four of the next five games. After a lengthy absence, the 37-year-old, who underwent hip surgery last summer, secured a significant victory. In the second round, he will face either Russian eighth seed Aslan Karatsev or Australian wildcard Jason Kubler.

“The support is incredibly important, especially during the difficult moments,” Nadal emphasized. “I received thousands of messages throughout this year, and having amazing people by my side every day truly makes the difference. I can’t really gauge my level as I have been away for so long. The first set was evenly matched, with both of us serving well. I managed to break at 6-5, and that made the difference.

“I know Dominic has also struggled with injuries, so it’s great to see him back on the court. I wish him the very best for the season.”

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