Home favorite Jordan Thompson ends 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal’s comeback run at the Brisbane International presented by Evie, emerging victorious after a three-set thriller held on Friday at the Pat Rafter Arena.
Former world number one Rafael Nadal gave farewell to Brisbane after falling to Australian Jordan Thompson, who took the biggest win of his career over the 37-year-old on home soil.
The 2023 runner-up in ‘s-Hertogenbosch recovered from a set down to earn a hard-fought 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-3 win after a three-hour, 25-minute thriller at the Queensland Tennis Centre.
Assessing the encounter, Nadal commented: “I think he played a good match. For me, even [though] that was not the best match, I had a lot of opportunities to win it, so… That’s it; I need to accept all this kind of stuff. After a year, that’s normal that things happen.”
Adding: “Every day is a different story, and things are difficult after such a long time. Today, the opponent played well and made me play one more ball. I didn’t play bad. I was just one ball away.”
Having not played on tour in nearly a year after undergoing hip surgery in June, it took three matches for an opponent to break the Spanish player’s serve on his return to tour-level competition at the ATP 250 tournament.
The in-form Australian, who came out strong, achieved it in the seventh game of the first set.
Nonetheless, in the blink of an eye, the 29-year-old from Sydney found himself broken straight back by the 92-time ATP titlist who flipped the script, recording a double break in the 12th game with a backhand forcing shot to close out a tight opener 7-5 in 71 minutes.
Thompson regrouped to notch the second set in the tiebreak 7-6(6) after 83 minutes, saving three match points against his rival to force a decider.
An injury scare raised concerns when Nadal pointed to his upper left leg, showing signs of pain. Soon after, he left the court for a medical timeout to receive treatment.
The home favorite wrapped up proceedings, claiming the third set 6-3 and the match, setting a semifinal meeting against second seed Grigor Dimitrov, who ousted Aussie Rinky Hijikata 6-1, 6-4.
Meanwhile, during his post-match press conference, the King of Clay put the first steps of his comeback into context, stressing: “It’s a beginning, and I haven’t played in a tournament for such a long time.
“Even without playing a tournament, it’s not [like] I am practicing at the highest level for four months. As I said, the last month has been quite good in terms of intensity, but it is not a long time.”
Later in the day, he shared a few words through social media, addressing the physical issue he faced in the contest.
“I had a small sensation, not a good one, in a similar place where I had the surgery, but it’s too early to say anything,” he wrote.
“Hopefully, it’s a charged muscle, and in the next few days, I’ll make some more tests. If it’s only a charged muscle, it’s been a very positive week.”
The other semifinal will see Dane Holger Rune facing unseeded Roman Safiullin.
Nadal’s 2024 opening campaign featured victories over former world number three Dominic Thiem and Australian Jason Kubler without dropping a set to advance to his 225th career quarterfinal against Thompson.