Rafael Nadal suffers setback on injury return after withdrawing from Australian Open

Spaniard reveals 'micro tear on muscle' just one tournament into his comeback

Rafael Nadal experienced pain in his thigh during his comeback at the Brisbane International. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Rafael Nadal suffered a setback on his return from a long-term hip injury on Sunday when it was announced he would miss the Australian Open following a “micro tear on a muscle” sustained at the Brisbane International.

Nadal, 37, had been sidelined since injuring his hip at the 2023 Australian Open, undergoing surgery before making his comeback in Brisbane, where he lost in the quarterfinals to Jordan Thompson.

During his match against Thompson, Nadal called for the trainer after feeling pain in his upper left thigh, and the Spaniard has revealed that the injury is separate from his hip issues.

“During my last match in Brisbane I had a small problem on a muscle that as you know made me worried,” Nadal wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“Once I got to Melbourne I have had the chance to make an MRI and I have micro tear on a muscle, not in the same part where I had the injury and that's good news.

“Right now I am not ready to compete at the maximum level of five-set matches. I'm flying back to Spain to see my doctor, get some treatment and rest.”

The 22-time Grand Slam champion added: “I have worked very hard during the year for this comeback and as I always mentioned my goal is to be at my best level in three months.

“Within the sad news for me for not being able to play in front of the amazing Melbourne crowds, this is not very bad news and we all remain positive with the evolution for the season.

“I really wanted to play here in Australia and I have had the chance to play a few matches that made me very happy and positive. Thanks all for the support and see you soon!”

Despite winning a remarkable 22 major titles and setting a whole host of records, Nadal's career has been significantly disrupted by injuries. Ankle and knee injuries affected the early part of his career, before a persistent wrist issue saw him miss several tournaments, including majors, between 2014 and 2016.

In 2021, Nadal played a limited schedule and called time on his season three months early to address a long-term foot injury. Then came the most career-threatening injury of them all with his hip injury 12 months ago.

Abdominal and shoulder problems have also impacted the Spaniard over the years.

Nadal said earlier this month that if his injuries persisted, 2024 could well be his last season, meaning he may never again play the Australian Open.

“The problem about saying that it’s going to be my last season is I can’t predict what’s going on 100 per cent in the future. That’s why I say probably,” Nadal said before his doubles match at the Brisbane International.

“It’s obvious it’s a high percentage that this is going to be my last time playing here in Australia. But if I am here next year, don’t tell me, ‘You said (this is) going to be your last season’, because I didn’t say it,” he added.

During his career, Nadal has dominated the French Open, where he won 14 of his majors, his first arriving just days after his 19th birthday in 2005, his last in 2022 making him the event's oldest champion.

He is a four-time champion at the US Open, won Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, and is a two-time winner at the Australian Open – with 13 years spanning his first triumph at Melbourne Park in 2009 and his second in 2022.

The injury absence saw Nadal's ranking slip to 672 while rival Novak Djokovic has passed him in the Grand Slam title count with 24.

Long-time rival and world No 1 Djokovic also has an injury cloud hanging over him ahead of the opening Grand Slam of the season.

The Serbian needed treatment on a troublesome right wrist during the United Cup last week, but said: “I think I have enough time to get myself in the right shape for the Australian Open.”

Updated: January 07, 2024, 12:56 PM