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Rafael Nadal returned to action for the first time since January at the Brisbane International on Sunday, December 31, losing his doubles match but overall showing no obvious after-effects of the hip injury that ruined his year.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion, who is gearing up for the January 14-28 Australian Open, sustained the hip problem in his second round loss at Melbourne Park at the start of 2023 and ended his season early after having surgery in June.
Nadal rekindled his partnership with retired veteran Marc Lopez, with whom he won an Olympic gold medal in 2016, for his comeback but the duo lost 6-4, 6-4 to Australians Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson at a packed Pat Rafter Arena.
The 37-year-old was warmly welcomed by fans who held up Spanish flags and supportive messages while the loudest cheers were reserved for his trademark whipped shots and a powerful crosscourt backhand winner in the opening set.
Nadal is likely to get a similar reception in his singles opener on Tuesday against qualifier Dominic Thiem, whom he defeated in the 2018 and 2019 French Open finals and holds a 9-6 win-loss record against. – Rappler.com