Australian Open chief Craig Tiley is hopeful Rafael Nadal will return to Melbourne Park in 2025 after the tennis legend withdrew from this year’s tournament with a hip injury.
But in what capacity remains to be seen.
On Sunday night, 22-time grand slam winner Nadal confirmed he was flying home to Spain to consult his doctor, in a devastating blow for fans and officials.
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His withdrawal immediately sparked fears the 37-year-old’s career could be over.
When asked on Monday if Australians would see Nadal next year, Tiley said: “Yes. I’m absolutely planning on seeing him next year.
Nadal will miss the 2024 Australian Open. Credit: AAP
“I’m planning on seeing him tonight for a private catch-up, which we always do, before he leaves town in the next few days and then I’ll ask him that same question.
“But there’s no question that I think that Rafa’s the kind of player that as long as he’s fit and he feels like he’s healthy and he can play, he’ll be out there playing.
“He loves to play and of course we would love to have him back in Melbourne under any circumstance – whether he’s playing or whatever else he’s doing.”
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Tiley was confident he could lure back the 2009 and 2022 Melbourne Park champion – but conceded it may not be in an on-court capacity.
“I think the pitch to Rafa is that he has got unfinished business in Melbourne,” Tiley said.
“He may say he’s got finished business because he won, as you recall, in 2022.
“But the pitch from me to him is, ‘Unfinished business in Melbourne, the fans want to see you, we’re expecting to see you’.
“But it’s entirely up to him. We’ll support whatever decision he makes. We’ll see if we can find a way to get him back,” said Tiley, adding tournament officials would also “continue to work on” luring retired greats Serena Williams and Roger Federer back to Melbourne.
Nadal, who had hip surgery in June, hadn’t played since last year’s Australian Open until returning at the season-opening Brisbane International.
He was injured in his third match, a loss to Australian Jordan Thompson, then withdrew from the Open after communicating with local doctors and his specialists in Spain.
“He needs at least two to three weeks of taking a break and going through rehab before he can compete,” Tiley said.
“Rafa’s the kind of player, he’s not going to enter an event unless he knows he’s going to be 100 per cent fit to win it.”.
Top local hope Alex de Minaur said Nadal’s withdrawal was “sad and disappointing”, particularly given his form.
When asked if Australia had seen the last of Nadal, de Minaur said: “I don’t know.
“That’s the honest answer.
“I think it might be difficult, (given) that he was thinking already that this was potentially his last year. So I guess we’ll have to wait.”