Nadal draws qualifier at comeback tournament in Brisbane

By AFP   December 30, 2023 | 07:46 am PT
Nadal draws qualifier at comeback tournament in Brisbane
Rafael Nadal practices for the Brisbane International. Photo by ATP
Rafael Nadal avoided meeting a seed first up at his comeback tournament after drawing a qualifier in the Brisbane International, with Russia's Aslan Karatsev a potential second-round opponent.

The 37-year-old Spaniard has been out of the game for almost 12 months following hip surgery after the 2023 Australian Open in January.

It was feared that Nadal, the winner of 22 Grand Slam singles titles, would never play professionally again.

However, he has fought his way back and was granted a wildcard to the season-opening Brisbane International in preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year at Melbourne Park beginning Jan. 14.

While he missed out on facing a seed, there are plenty of accomplished players competing in Brisbane qualifying, including 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem and former world number eight Diego Schwartzman.

If Nadal advances, he will play eighth-seeded Karatsev or Australian wildcard Jason Kubler in the second round, with fourth seed Ugo Humbert lurking as a potential quarter-final opponent.

Britain's Andy Murray drew second-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in an intriguing first-round clash.

Murray is a two-time winner of the Brisbane International, and beat Dimitrov in the final in 2013.

In the women's draw, four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka will be pitted against Germany's world number 84 Tamara Korpatsch in the opening round as she makes her highly anticipated return.

The Japanese star, who gave birth to daughter Shai in July and has previously struggled with her mental health, has not played since September 2022.

If she sees off Korpatsch, she will face three-time Brisbane champion Karolina Pliskova in the second round.

World number two Aryna Sabalenka received a first round bye.

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