Rafael Nadal, who played his first tournament in a year in Brisbane after hip surgery, stopped in the quarter-finals. The Mallorcan lost in three sets (7-5, 6-(8) 7, 3-6) and 3:26, Friday January 5, against the Australian Jordan Thompson, ranked 55th at the ATP.

After two easy victories, Tuesday against the Austrian Dominic Thiem (7-5, 6-1), then Thursday against the Australian Jason Kubler (6-1, 6-2), Nadal cracked during this first big physical test since his return. The game was played in the overheated atmosphere of the Pat Rafter Arena, a 5,500-seat venue, which was full for this poster.

Before this meeting, Nadal had two successes in as many matches against the modest Australian, at Bercy in 2020 (6-1, 7-6) and at Roland-Garros in 2022 (6-2, 6-2, 6-2) . At 29, the Sydney native has two doubles titles, but he has never won a single tournament on the ATP circuit.

Current limits

Very tactically correct, he nevertheless pushed the Bull of Manacor to his limits by multiplying the long exchanges, which neither Dominic Thiem nor Jason Kubler had been able to do. The Australian did not hesitate to play on the Spaniard’s forehand, his best asset. Less comfortable than in his two previous matches, especially in his forward races, Nadal showed his current limits.

After a balanced start to the match, Nadal gave up his serve in the 42nd minute, for the first time since the start of the tournament. He immediately reacted by seizing his opponent’s serve to get back to four games all. Exploiting a few errors from Thompson in his service game (a double fault and two backhands in the net), the Mallorcan completed the first set (7-5) in 1 hour 17 minutes. He then seemed set for another quick success.

The second set also started again on the same basis. Serving harder and returning longer, Nadal kept Thompson under pressure, but the latter, in front of his home crowd, held on. After saving three match points, the Australian won the second set in the tie-break (8-6), in 1 hour 23 minutes.

Annoyed at not having been able to conclude when he had the opportunity, Nadal ended up physically breaking down in the last round. After almost three hours of match, he had to call the trainer in the locker room. Back on the court, the Mallorcan, visibly worried, showed his bad-day expression. Despite a last stand in the last games, the Spaniard finally lost after an intense battle.

Positive numbers

This defeat tarnishes the results of the Brisbane tournament for Rafael Nadal, who was largely positive after two first quick victories. Even if he has not yet regained sufficient physical condition to win in a long match, his mobility on the court seemed convincing.

The former world number 1 is also guaranteed to recover more than 200 places next Monday in the ATP rankings, where he currently occupies 672nd place in the world. He will not be seeded in Melbourne, a tournament he has won twice, in 2009 and 2022. The Australian Open takes place from January 14 to 28.

In the next round, Jordan Thompson will face the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov on Saturday, one of the men in form of the moment, ranked 14th in the ATP, who dominated in two sets (6-1, 6-4) the young Australian of Japanese origin Rinky Hijikata. He could meet the Dane Holger Rune (8th in the ATP) in the final on Sunday, if he overcomes the Russian Roman Safiullin in the semi-final on Saturday.