A grateful Rafael Nadal has opened up on his “emotional” journey back to the big time after winning his first singles match in a year, defeating Dominic Thiem 7-5, 6-1 at the Brisbane International on Tuesday night.
Nadal was plagued by injuries during his 2023 campaign, but notched up his 1069th tour win on Tuesday, taking him into outright fourth for most wins in men’s singles history, surpassing the great Ivan Lendl.
“Today is an emotional and important day for me after probably one of the toughest years of my tennis career without a doubt,” Nadal told Nine after the match.
“I missed being healthy, I missed feeling myself (be) competitive and play in front of full crowds like this.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing despite domination that led to a straight sets victory.
“Nerves before the match, doubts … but things went well and I’m excited to be back again tomorrow,” Nadal said.
“To have the chance to come back after a year, play in front of an amazing crowd, and play at a very positive level is probably something that makes us feel proud … every single day of the last year.
“The support is super important. To have the chance to received thousands of messages during all this year, having great people next to me every single day makes a difference without a doubt.”
The 22-time grand slam champion beamed on court, finishing off his post match speech – the first since his Australian Open appearance in 2023 – by recognising opponent Thiem, who has also been battling career setbacks.
“Honestly I know Dominic has been going through some hard times with injuries too, so, happy to see him on court. I wish him all the very best for the season,” Nadal said.
Nadal will return to the Brisbane International court on Wednesday, taking on Australian Jason Kubler in the round of 16.