BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 02: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates victory after his match against Dominic Thiem of Austria during day two of the  2024 Brisbane International at Queensland Tennis Centre on January 02, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images) Rafael Nadal celebrates victory after his match against Dominic Thiem on Tuesday. Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images CNN  — 

Rafael Nadal made an impressive return to singles action on Tuesday as he beat Austria’s Dominic Thiem in straight sets at the Brisbane International in Australia.

The 22-time grand slam champion was playing in his first singles match in almost a year, having spent months struggling with injuries last season.

“Today is honestly an emotional and important day for me after probably one of the toughest years of my tennis career without a doubt,” Nadal said in his on-court interview after the first-round win.

Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) shakes hands with partner Marc Lopez after losing their men's doubles match against Australia's Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson at the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane on December 31, 2023. Rafael Nadal seemed happy to be back on the court. William West/AFP/Getty Images

“(I) have the chance to comeback after a year and play in front of an amazing crowd and play I think at a very positive level.”

On Sunday, Nadal played in his first match since last January with doubles partner Marc Lopez at the Brisbane International. The Spanish duo lost in straight sets to Australians Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson, but Nadal showed glimpses of his brilliance.

The Spaniard looked to move well again in his victory against former world. No 3 Thiem, rolling back the years with some magical winners.

The 37-year-old Nadal said in May that 2024 will likely be his last year on tour but, on Sunday, he didn’t rule out continuing past this date.

“You never know what’s going on, you know? I can’t predict how I’m going to be in the next six months,” Nadal said, according to Reuters.

“I can’t predict if my body will allow me to enjoy tennis as much as I enjoyed the past 20 years.”

Nadal faces Australian Jason Kubler in the round of 16 on Thursday.

The Brisbane International is a tournament often used by players preparing for the Australian Open and Nadal is hoping to return to grand slam action in Melbourne later this month, a tournament he has won twice.

CNN’s Issy Ronald contributed reporting.

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