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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday January 1, 2024

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal performed brilliantly in his 2024 debut, taking out Dominic Thiem for his first win in nearly a year.

Photo Source: Getty

New year, new season, old Nadal?

Playing his first competitive match since last year’s Australian Open, Rafael Nadal showed mid-season form as he took down longtime rival Dominic Thiem at the Brisbane International, 7-5, 6-1.

After ending his 2023 season with a hip flexor surgery (in June), Nadal has talked of the imminent end of his career, possibly as soon as 2024, but he hit the ground running on Tuesday in Brisbane, playing clean and mean tennis to improve to 10-6 against Thiem in the pair’s first meeting since the 2020 ATP Finals.

“Today is honestly an emotional and important day for me, after one of the toughest years of my tennis career,” Nadal said in his on-court interview. "After probably one of the toughest years of my tennis career without a doubt.

"Having the chance to come back after a year and play in front of an amazing crowd and play I think at a very positive level for the first day is something that probably make us feel proud. To myself, to all the team, family that have been there every single day during the last year."

The 37-year-old Nadal claimed a tight opening stanza by converting his fourth set point in the 12th game with a forehand pass down the line. Nadal didn’t face a break point in the opener, and won 24 of 27 serve points in the set.

"I think the first set has been very equal, both of us serving well and winning more or less our serves," Nadal said. "Very comfortable and then I was able to have that break in the 6-5 game.

"So that makes the difference and honestly I know Dominic has been going through some hard times with injury too, so happy to see him on court and I wish him all the very best for the season."

The 22-time major champion broke quickly in the second set, lacing a backhand crosscourt winner to lead 7-5, 2-0, and didn’t look back against 98th-ranked Thiem. Nadal used a five-game surge to take charge.

Nadal notched the double break for 5-1 and served out the match in the next game at 15.

With his victory Nadal passes Ivan Lendl on the all-time ATP win list with victory No.1069. He is currently fourth on the all-time list.

ATP Wins, all-time:

Connors, 1274
Federer, 1251
Djokovic, 1089
Nadal, 1069
Lendl, 1068


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