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Nadal, Osaka in Australia comebacks as Djokovic targets more glory

SYDNEY, Australia, December 28 ------ Rafael Nadal returns from a "winding, tortuous" injury journey in Brisbane this week, while fellow superstar Novak Djokovic kickstarts his bid for an unprecedented 11th Australian Open title at Perth. It appeared last season that the veterans, with 46 Grand Slam crowns between them, may never share a competitive court again. But the prospect is back in play with Spain's Nadal recovering from hip surgeries that sidelined him for almost a year.


He begins what is set to be a farewell season at the Brisbane International from December 31-January 7 alongside Andy Murray and world number eight Holger Rune. Top-ranked Djokovic has opted for the mixed teams United Cup in Perth and Sydney, starting Friday, as have fellow top 10 players Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Taylor Fritz. Barring last-minute setbacks, Nadal and Djokovic will then grace the courts of Melbourne Park for the Australian Open from January 14, perhaps for the last time together.


The 22-time Grand Slam tournament winner Nadal has not played since a second-round loss to American Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open this year, leading to what coach Carlos Moya said was "a winding, tortuous road, with many curves". Now 37, Nadal said he expects "nothing" from himself this time around. "I have internalized what I have had throughout my life, which is demand myself the maximum," he said in announcing his return.


Since being sidelined, Nadal has been overtaken in the total number of Grand Slam tournaments won by his Serbian arch-rival, who is targeting an all-time record 25th major title in Melbourne. The 36-year-old Djokovic won three Grand Slams in 2023, but ended the season with two losses to burgeoning Italian Jannik Sinner at the Davis Cup.


Spanish world number two Carlos Alcaraz also notched a sensational win over Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. The fourth-ranked Sinner gets his season under way at the Kooyong Classic exhibition event in Melbourne, while Alcaraz has nothing currently scheduled before the Australian Open.



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