Breaking away from his traditional season start in the Middle East, World No. 5 Rafael Nadal has instead chosen the Brisbane International to usher his 2017 season in January. This will be the first appearance of the 14-time Grand Slam champion at this ATP 250 tournament since its inception in 2009.
The former World No.1 will thus replace the 17-time Major winner Roger Federer who has opted to represent Switzerland at the Hopman Cup alongside Belinda Bencic. Federer had reached the finals at Brisbane the last three years, winning in 2015 while losing in 2014 and 2016 to Lleyton Hewitt and Milos Raonic respectively.
Brisbane completes clean sweep of the 'Big Four'
With Rafa’s inclusion in the draw, now all the members of the ‘Big Four’ have played at this popular season-opener. Murray won this event for two years in a row from 2012-2013.
“It’s going to be the first time in my career that I’m going to play in Australia the first week of the season and I’m really excited about it,” Nadal said in a statement.
“I think this is something I have to do during my career and I think at the same time it’s going to be a great preparation to be in Australia early. Everybody who has been in Brisbane has told me very beautiful things about the tournament and the place so I want to try it,” the Spanish ace said.
Nadal is just the first name announced from a ‘very exciting line-up of players’ as revealed by the Brisbane International Tournament Director Geoff Quinlan. He added: “Rafa is a legend of the sport and one of the most exciting players to see live so I’m sure fans will be counting down the days to January.”
Rafa returned to competition at the Rio Olympics after a break of two-and-a-half months due to a wrist injury which forced him to withdraw midway through the French Open. Even though he was admittedly not at full strength, he still showed enough glimpses of his brilliance to partner Marc Lopez to the men’s doubles gold medal. In singles, he grabbed four wins before two losing two hard-fought matches to Juan Martin del Potro and Kei Nishikori.
The 30-year-old Spaniard is currently preparing for next week’s US Open where he is seeded fourth.
The Brisbane International will be held at the Queensland Tennis Centre from 1 to 8 January 2017.