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Australian Open chief still confident Nadal will return to Melbourne

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Spain’s Rafael Nadal has expressed a desire to play one more French Open and represent Spain at the Paris Olympics next year before retiring at the end of his 23rd season on the tour.

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts on a point against Britain’s Cameron Norrie during their men’s singles match on day three of the United Cup tennis tournament in Sydney on December 31, 2022. Picture: Saeed KHAN, AFP

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley said he remained confident Rafa Nadal would be at Melbourne Park in January despite the 37-year-old’s struggles with injuries over the last couple of years.

Nadal, who won two of his 22 major singles titles in Melbourne, has not played a competitive match since bowing out in the second round of this year’s edition of the Grand Slam when hampered by a hip flexor problem.

“Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day, because he’s a massive drawcard for us,” Tiley told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

“He wants to play, he’s obviously planning on playing. It all depends on how he pulls up.

“Hopefully in the next week or the next two weeks, we get some specific confirmation of that. I’m certain Rafa will be here because he’s not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago.”

In the 2022 final against Daniil Medvedev, Nadal became the first man in the Open era to come back from two sets down to win the title.

Nadal has expressed a desire to play one more French Open and represent Spain at the Paris Olympics next year before retiring at the end of his 23rd season on the tour.

His team have yet to reveal any plans for his return to the court, however, and Nadal said last week in Barcelona that he was unsure about the timeline.

“I have been able to train a little bit more, the progress seems pretty good,” he said.

“I don’t know when I will be back playing, for sure it is closer than the last time I spoke to the media. If you want me to tell you when I’m returning, I’m not going to do it because I don’t know when it is going to be.”

Tiley was less bullish than he has been in the past about the prospect of local drawcard Nick Kyrgios taking part in his home Grand Slam.

Kyrgios has struggled with knee and wrist injuries since pulling out of last year’s Australian Open at the 11th hour and has played only one tour match since the Japan Open in October 2022.

“We have spoken to Nick, and he obviously wants to do the best he possibly can to give him the best chance to play in January,” Tiley said of the 2022 Wimbledon finalist.

“Whether he’s playing, whether he’s doing something else, Nick will be here in January and to get him to play will be great. But we’ve got to take it as it comes and he’s got to make sure he takes care of his health …”

Reuters

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