As the tennis world eagerly anticipates the new season, two of its greatest icons, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, are poised for comebacks in Australia.
Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, returns from a challenging year marked by hip surgeries, with the Brisbane International (Dec 31-Jan 7) marking the beginning of what he terms a “farewell season.” The Spanish maestro, now 37, acknowledges the difficulties ahead but expresses a desire to accept the challenges gradually.
“I have internalised what I have had throughout my life, which is demand myself the maximum,” he said in announcing his return.
“Right now what I really hope is to be able not to do that, to accept things are going to be very difficult at the beginning and give myself the necessary time.”
Meanwhile, world No. 1 Djokovic, eyeing an unprecedented 11th Australian Open title, has opted for the mixed teams United Cup in Perth and Sydney (starting Dec 29). Djokovic, 36, concluded 2023 with three Grand Slam victories but faced defeats at the Davis Cup.
With Serbian arch-rival Nadal back in the mix, Melbourne Park (Jan 14) promises a potentially epic showdown, perhaps one of the last for these tennis legends.
On the women’s front, four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka makes a highly anticipated return in Brisbane, while world No. 1 Iga Swiatek prepares in Perth. Aryna Sabalenka, fresh off her maiden Slam victory, headlines a competitive field in Brisbane, with other stars like Coco Gauff defending titles and players like Svitolina, Wozniacki, and Raducanu making noteworthy comebacks.