Rafa Nadal will return to Grand Slam tennis at the Australian Open in January, tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday.
The 37-year-old former world number one has been sidelined since hurting his hip flexor in a second-round loss to Mackenzie McDonald at the Melbourne Park major earlier this year.
The Spaniard, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, was initially expected to miss eight weeks but underwent surgery on a hip muscle in June. While Nadal’s representative Benito Perez-Barbadillo told Reuters via text from Shanghai that there was nothing to announce yet on the Spaniard’s upcoming schedule, Tiley told Nine Network’s ‘The Today Show’ that he had confirmed his participation.
“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.”
Tiley also said Australian Nick Kyrgios could return in time to play at Melbourne Park after he underwent knee surgery in January and suffered wrist and foot issues in an injury-plagued 2023.
“We know Nick’s been in training, wanting to return as well. So we expect to see him back,” he added.
Tiley said a trio of former women’s champions – Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki – were also planning to return to the year’s first Grand Slam after maternity breaks.
“We’ll welcome them – and their families – back to Melbourne with open arms and can’t wait to see what their next chapter brings,” he added.
Nadal has said he expects to retire after the 2024 season, with a series of injuries limiting his appearances on Tour. He dropped out of the top 100 for the first time in 20 years earlier in the season and has slipped to number 240 in the world but is eligible for a protected ranking having been injured and not competing in any event for at least six months.
Nadal, who has been releasing videos of his training, has also expressed his desire to play in next year’s Paris Olympics with the tennis tournament set to take place at Roland Garros, where he has won 14 of his 22 major titles.
In Nadal’s absence, Novak Djokovic has gone on to win a record 24 Grand Slams. Nadal has won the Australian Open twice, with his last victory coming in 2022 when he beat Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and became the first man in the Open era to come back from two sets down in the final to win.