Rafael Nadal is coming back.
The icon’s big news was announced by Australian Open boss Craig Tiley on Wednesday morning — coming just three weeks after the Spaniard made worrying headlines when admitting his injuries are so bad that he at times can’t walk down stairs.
However, Tiley has now announced Nadal will return to play at Melbourne Park in January — his first return to the ATP Tour since he was overcome with niggling injuries at the 2023 Aussie Open.
The 37-year-old did not play in 2023 after leaving Australia — and it was speculated he was set to pull the plug on his career when announcing he was not fit to play at Roland Garros earlier this year.
He has not played since having surgery before the French Open and will be relying on having a protected ranking after sliding down to No. 237 on the ATP Tour rankings.
It’s why the Tennis Australia chief executive’s comments have surprised many tennis commentators around the world.
Tiley announced the news during an interview on The Today Show where he suggested the Open will see the return of “some of the greats” who have missed the tournament recently.
“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. That’s awesome.
“And we know Nick’s (Kyrgios) been in training so we expect to see him back.”
Nadal won the last of his 22 grand slam singles titles at last year’s French Open, but there are fears he may never get back to the dominant force he has previously been.
The Spaniard dealt with foot and rib injuries in recent years before he was forced to withdraw from a Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios last year with an abdominal tear.
His biggest problem remains the foot injury that has impacted him for years.
“(The pain isn’t gone) but now it is controllable,” Nadal said in a documentary this year.
“There are times when the foot does not let me live in peace. It is difficult for me to even go down the stairs and that happens sometimes.
“If it hurts it is difficult to be happy, my character changes when it hurts more than necessary.”
With 14 of his grand slam titles coming on the red clay at Roland Garros, many tennis pundits feel he will always be a threat at the French Open if he is healthy enough to compete.
His victory at the 2022 Australian Open also snapped a 13-year drought between wins at the season-opening slam.
His win over Daniil Medvedev in the men’s singles final remains one of the greatest matches seen on Rod Laver Arena with Nadal winning his second Aussie Open crown after an enthralling 5hr 25mins battle.