Rafael Nadal pulls off a triumphant tennis return in Brisbane

Vamos, Rafa! (Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

Welcome back, Rafael Nadal.

In a highly-anticipated professional tennis return after almost a year of hiatus from the competitive scene, the former no. 1 male player of the world put up a majestic performance in front of his fans after sweeping Dominic Thiem- 7.5, 6.1- in the ongoing Brisbane International tournament last January 2, 2024.

It was as if Nadal never left. After scoring his first-ever down-the-line forehand bomb in the first set, the living legend received a standing ovation and was warmly welcomed by the tennis community.

All the shots in his arsenal were still there. The heavy top-spin forehand, the court mastery, the speed to cover all the drop balls, and the unique winner angles.

It was a back-and-forth first set as Thiem didn’t back down from Nadal, trading power bombs after bombs while also having his moments when he scored several return aces with his signature one-handed backhand.

However, Nadal’s killer instinct rose to the occasion in the last three game sets as he pummeled Thiem with a series of cross-court forehand winners alongside his tremendous baseline defense.

Nadal ramped up his intensity in the second set and continued his aggressiveness in attacking Thiem in the baseline to build an early lead.

After a deadlock at 1-1, Nadal started to pull away after breaking Thiem’s service streak three times to seize control of the match.

The momentum then swung Nadal’s way as he neutralized Thiem’s baseline bombs after he attacked the net several times.

With Nadal only needing a point to finish the job, the Spanish superstar then did it in style after faking Thiem with a cross-court drop shot that sealed the deal.

“Today is honestly an emotional and important day for me after probably one of the toughest years of my tennis career, without a doubt. I had the chance to come back after a year and play in front of an amazing crowd and play, I think, at a very positive level,” said Nadal after the win.