Enigmatic Australian star Nick Kyrgios is “fully expected” to return for the Australian Open and is set to be joined by Rafael Nadal as a high-profile trio returns to bolster the women’s draw.
Tournament director Craig Tiley says Nadal and Kyrgios have both told him they are targeting comebacks by January as world No.2 Carlos Alcaraz also prepares to make his return after withdrawing from the 2023 tournament the week prior with a hamstring injury.
Tiley confirmed past winners Angelique Kerber (2016) and Naomi Osaka (2019 and 2021) were set to return to the circuit in time for the Open after both welcomed baby daughters this year, while 2018 champion Caroline Wozniacki will make a comeback after overcoming debilitating rheumatoid arthritis that forced her retirement in January 2020.
The Tennis Australia boss conceded Kyrgios still had work to do to overcome a recurring knee problem but said the star had indicated to him he was committed to pushing for a return despite only managing to play once in 2023.
A wrist injury forced the 28-year-old out of Wimbledon, while the knee problem kept him out of the other grand slams, and he has frequently raised the prospect of his retirement in podcasts and on social media this year as he weighs up his passion for the game.
“The one thing great about Nick – he’s very transparent and very open about what he’s feeling and what he thinks … I personally believe in the communication that he’s motivated to come back and play in January,” Tiley said.
“He loves playing, he loves playing here in front of his crowd, and he knows everyone wants him to play … it’s just a matter of his health. He’s had a significant injury and in many cases for many athletes it can be a career-ending injury.
“He’s in the process of still getting over that, and I fully expect him to be here and be ready to play and provide us with the entertainment we want.”
Tiley said Nadal was on track to play as he recovered from surgery on the psoas muscle in his left hip, stemming from an injury he sustained during the 2023 Open as he crashed out in the second round.
“I called him, we stay in touch … you always get your hopes up because you want people like Rafa to be here, and he particularly is someone who loves Australia, is very well liked by everyone as well, so it’s pretty exciting to see him hitting and feeling really good about it,” he said.
“Obviously, there’s still a little bit of time between now and January, but if he stays healthy, so far the signs have been really good.”
An extra day’s play has been added to the 2024 tournament to avoid extreme weather sending matches running well into the early hours as often occurred this year.
Tiley said late finishes could not entirely be ruled out, but the extended schedule would allow one less match to be played in the afternoon session on each court and avoid night games starting late.