Rafael Nadal’s return in first match since injury, suffers defeat in Brisbane doubles

It was his first match in 347 days, the longest he has ever been out of action owing to an injury.

Rafael Nadal looked for a grand return to Australia, the very same country where he had incurred a hip injury in a shock second-round exit in the season's first Grand Slam tournament. 

The injury subsequently kept him out for 12 months, during which he even underwent surgery. And it was Marc Lopez, who retired in 2022 and was already part of Rafa's coaching entourage since 2021, who welcomed him back after teaming up for the first time in a doubles game since they had clinched the elusive gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016. 

However, the Spaniards incurred a 4-6, 4-6 loss to Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson from Australia in their Brisbane International opener at the Pat Rafter Arena on Sunday. Nadal was greeted back to Australia and tennis with a rapturous welcome. 

It was his first match in 347 days, the longest he has ever been out of action owing to an injury. The 22-time Grand Slam winner had injured his left hip flexor during the Australian Open earlier this year. The lingering injury had forced him to relinquish his shot at a possible 15th French Open crown as he addressed the media in an emotional press conference in May 2023, after which he underwent an arthroscopic surgery in June.

Nadal, who was playing his first doubles match since partnering Roger Federer in his long-time rival’s farewell match at the Laver Cup in 2022, was broken in the opening set as the Aussies made no mistake on their serve to close it 6-4. The Spaniards were broken again after going 3-3 as Purcell and Thompson closed the match comfortably.

Nadal was yet all smiles as he soaked in all the appreciation from the crowd on his way out of the court alongside Lopez. The former world No. 1 will be back in action for his singles match on Monday at the same arena.

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