Rafael Nadal To Make Grand Slam Return At Australian Open

By Jamiu Ogunshe, Lagos

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Rafael Nadal will make his return to Grand Slam tennis following hip surgery at the 2024 Australian Open, says tournament chief Craig Tiley.

Spain’s 22-time Grand Slam champion has been out of action since January and underwent surgery in June.

Nadal, 37, has said he plans to retire at the end of the 2024 season.

According to Tiley, former women’s champions Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki also plan to return after maternity breaks.

Nadal has been sidelined since injuring his hip flexor in a second-round defeat by Mackenzie McDonald at January’s Australian Open.

In announcing he would miss the French Open for the first time in 19 years – the tournament where he has won 14 of his majors – Nadal said next year will probably be the last year of his career.

“We can reveal exclusively here that Rafa will be back,” Tiley said.

“He’s been off for most of the year and in talking to him over the last few days he confirmed he will be back, which we’re really excited about, the champion of 2022. That’s awesome.”

While Nadal is back on court, those close to him say that it is too early to confirm whether he will be in Melbourne in January.

His representative Benito Perez-Barbadillo confirmed Nadal is back practising but added “there is no date confirmed, scheduled or programmed yet for his comeback”.

Two-time Australian Open champion Nadal claimed his most recent Slam at Roland Garros in 2022. Novak Djokovic has since taken his leading men’s tally to 24.

On the expected return of Osaka, Kerber and Wozniacki, Tiley added: “We’ll welcome them – and their families – back to Melbourne with open arms and can’t wait to see what their next chapter brings.”

However, speaking in 2017, Tiley had said there was “no question” Serena Williams would be ready to feature at the 2018 tournament, despite having only had a baby that September, and she did not play.

The Australian Open will become a 15-day event for the first time in 2024 in an attempt to reduce the number of late-night finishes at Melbourne Park.

At the 2023 tournament, Novak Djokovic won a record-extending 10th title and Aryna Sabalenka won her first Grand Slam singles title.



BBC/Jamiu Ogunshe