Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz both welcomed Rafael Nadal back to the ATP tour after the Spanish legend defeated Dominic Thiem at the 2024 Brisbane International.
Nadal crushed former world No 3 Thiem 7-5, 6-1 in the first round of the 2024 Brisbane International on Tuesday in his first match in almost a year.
The 37-year-old broke the 30-year-old Austrian, who is currently ranked 98th, three times and did not face a break point on his own serve in a convincing performance.
The Mallorcan had not played a singles match since suffering a hip injury in a straight-set defeat to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open.
The former world No 1 fell 4-6, 4-6 with partner Marc Lopez in the doubles event in Brisbane on his return to the match court on December 31.
In a post on his Instagram story following Nadal’s victory against 2020 US Open winner Thiem, world No 1 Djokovic posted an image from the Spaniard’s match with the caption: “Welcome back.”
Novak Djokovic welcomes back Rafael Nadal and Emma Raducanu ❤️ pic.twitter.com/qxXN4lcFuA
— Eurosport (@eurosport) January 2, 2024
Djokovic also posted the same message for returning WTA stars Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu, who also won first matches of their respective comebacks this week.
World No 2 Alcaraz expressed his delight at the return of his countryman and idol Nadal in reply to an Instagram post from the Spanish icon: “What a joy to see you again on track Rafa!”
Speaking ahead of Nadal’s comeback, Djokovic suggested it would be a mistake to write off his great rival Nadal’s chances of performing at the highest level again.
“I always expect him to play at his best, to be honest. Many times, they’ve signed him out, they’ve done that with me as well,” the 36-year-old said in a recent interview.
“But we’ve proved them wrong. He’s not a kind of a player that will come back to the tour just to play — let’s say — on a medium level, play a few matches.”
Nadal reflected on the emotions of triumphing on his long-awaited return to competitive action in an Instagram post.
“Very emotional day for me. Now back at the hotel I can share with you some pictures of today’s match. As you all know it wasn’t just another match… I am very happy to have had the chance to feel the competition,” the Spaniard wrote.
“There’s been a lot of effort and work to come back. Anything could have happened in a day like today after such a long time without playing a professional tennis match. I am happy with the way it all went.
“Nothing has changed with regards of what I have been saying lately: This is one step and still there is a long way to go. The first match in almost a year that went well quite honestly, but it’s only a match. Important that I am healthy and stayed healthy throughout the match. And my goal is to keep enjoying!
“Thanks to my team, my family and all my fans who have given me all their support.”