Tennis great Rafael Nadal will play at next year’s Australian Open, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.
The 22-time grand slam champion has been absent from the sport after suffering a defeat to Mackenzie McDonald in January at the 2023 edition of the tournament.
During the match, the Spaniard was severely affected by a hip injury that he picked up during the second set, forcing him to leave the court for a medical timeout and leading to his straight sets loss.
Initially expected to make a return later in the year, Nadal announced on social media that he was pulling out of the Madrid and Rome Masters and then Roland Garros, missing the competition that he has won a record 14 times.
In May, he said at a press conference that he would be away from the ATP Tour for a “few months”. He had hip surgery in June and was ruled out for the rest of the 2023 calendar.
However, the 37-year-old will make his return in Melbourne next year, according to Tiley.
“We can reveal exclusively here that Rafa will be back,” said Tiley on Australia’s ‘The Today Show’.
“He’s been off for most of the year and in talking to him over the last few days he confirmed he will be back, which we’re really excited about, the champion of 2022. That’s awesome.”
CNN has reached out to Nadal’s representatives for confirmation.
Nadal’s comeback to the tournament he has won twice would mark the start of what could be his final year in the sport.
During May’s press conference, he admitted that 2024 is “probably going to be [his] last year on the professional tour” and outlined his plan to get back to full fitness for the competitions that mean the most to him.
“My idea and my motivation is to try to enjoy and try to say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important for me in my tennis career during [next] year, and just try to enjoy that, being competitive and enjoying being on the court, something that today is not possible,” he said.
Nadal recently posted a video of himself back on court as he prepares for the 2024 season.
He has fallen dramatically down the rankings as a result of his absence, currently occupying the 240th spot.
He dropped out of the top ten for the first time in more than 17 years in March this year, having spent a remarkable 912 weeks as a top ten player.
Nadal is not the only big name to be lining up a return to Melbourne – Tiley also announced that Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber, all former Australian Open champions, will also be appearing next January, which has been confirmed by the tournament’s social media accounts.
Osaka and Kerber have both been away from the sport in 2023 after giving birth, while Wozniacki made her return to tennis in August, having spent the last three years in retirement.
She had an impressive run to the quarterfinals of the US Open in only her third tournament back, where she was defeated by eventual champion Coco Gauff.
Tiley, who is also CEO of Tennis Australia, also noted that he “expects” to see home favorite and 2022 Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kygrios back in action at next year’s tournament.
The 2024 Australian Open will run from the January 14-28, opening on a Sunday for the first time in tournament history.