Tennis: Spanish legend Rafa Nadal withdraws from Australian Open swansong with injury

Spaniard Rafael Nadal will miss the Australian Open this month, after suffering a small muscle tear during his comeback from a long injury layoff at the Brisbane International.

Nadal's latest injury casts fresh doubts about the former world No.1's ability to compete at the elite level again, after previously stating he expects to finish his glittering, but injury-plagued career in 2024.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion made his long-awaited return to competitive tennis at Brisbane, after spending almost a year out on the sidelines with a hip flexor injury sustained during his second round defeat to Mackenzie McDonald in last year's Australian Open.

Rafa Nadal is injured at the Brisbane International.
Rafa Nadal is injured at the Brisbane International. Photo credit: Getty Images

Nadla, 37, did not compete again last season, after undergoing surgery in June, and suffered an upper left leg issue during his defeat by Jordan Thompson in the quarter-finals of the tune-up event for the January 14-28 Melbourne Park major.

"During my last match in Brisbane, I had a small problem on a muscle that, as you know, made me worried," tweeted Nadal.

"Once I got to Melbourne, I have had the chance to make an MRI and I have micro tear on a muscle, not in the same part where I had the injury and that's good news.

"Right now, I am not ready to compete at the maximum level of exigence in five-sets matches. I'm flying back to Spain to see my doctor, get some treatment and rest."

Nadal, who won the Australian Open in 2009 and 2022, has worked extremely hard to make his comeback during the year and stressed that, despite the latest setback, his goal was to be at his best in three months.

Nadal has also told Spanish newspaper El Pais recently that he was thinking about the French Open, where he has won 14 of his major titles.

"Within the sad news for me for not being able to play in front of the amazing Melbourne crowds, this isn't very bad news and we all remain positive with the evolution for the season," added Nadal.

"I really wanted to play here in Australia, and I have had the chance to play a few matches that made me very happy and positive."