Nadal was playing his third singles match following a lengthy injury layoff. Chris Hyde/Getty Images CNN —
Rafael Nadal’s first singles competition since returning from injury ended in a riveting quarterfinal defeat against Australian Jordan Thompson at the Brisbane International on Friday.
The Spaniard, playing in his first singles event in almost a year, won the first set and had three match points in the second before Thompson mounted an impressive comeback, eventually triumphing 5-7 7-6 6-3 in a tight encounter.
The match lasted close to three-and-a-half hours and it was almost midnight in Brisbane when Thompson won an epic 33-shot rally – the longest of the match – to complete a thrilling victory, much to the delight of the home fans who had stayed late into the evening.
Nadal, who struggled with injuries throughout 2023 and spent several months of the year recovering from hip surgery, took a medical timeout in the third set but returned to the court to finish the match.
He later said that the pain was in his left hip – the same place that caused him trouble last year – but believed the issue was muscular, rather than a tendon.
“I hope I can train next week and play the Australian Open, but I’m not 100 percent sure,” Nadal told reporters, per Reuters, adding: “What matters now is that I’ve been able to play three matches in Brisbane. My opponent played very well and you have to give him credit.”
Nadal plays a backhand against Thompson. Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Nadal was making his first quarterfinal appearance since Wimbledon in 2022 and had already faced Thompson in a doubles games on Sunday. The 29-year-old was also the winner on that occasion, though Friday’s victory was far more grueling for both players.
Thompson secured a break of serve at 3-3 in the first set but immediately saw his advantage disappear as Nadal broke back – first in the following game, then when Thompson drilled a backhand into the net while serving to stay in the set at 6-5.
The second set was just as close as the first, but Nadal looked to be edging nearer to victory and a spot in the final four as the match wore on. He had a match point at 5-4 and engineered another two in the tie-break.
However, the former world No. 1 failed to get over the line, spraying a forehand wide while leading 6-4 in the tie-break before Thompson took the next three points in stunning fashion – the highlight a superb, lunging volley to go 7-6 ahead.
Buoyed on by the home crowd, Thompson got fired up and secured a break of serve for a 3-1 lead in the deciding set.
Nadal took his medical timeout soon after, but the momentum remained in Thompson’s favor. The world No. 55 completed his comeback when Nadal sent a backhand long during a tense match point.
He will now face Grigor Dimitrov in the semifinals of the Brisbane International on Saturday, and the winner of that match will face either Holger Rune or Roman Safiullin in the final.
Thompson celebrates winning match point against Nadal – his first victory against the Spaniard. Chris Hyde/Getty Images
“To beat Rafa in Brisbane, at home in a quarterfinal, I think it’s my first semifinal on a hard court as well, so yeah, couldn’t be happier,” Thompson said in his on-court interview.
Nadal had comfortably defeated Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler in his first two singles matches following the long injury layoff. He will be hoping to win a 23rd grand slam title at this month’s Australian Open, which begins on January 14.