During December’s pre-season preparations, the young Frenchman Arthur Fils trained with Rafael Nadal in Kuwait. Fils learned a lot from Nadal during their practice sessions, and one thing impressed him the most. Arthur described Rafa’s well-known pace during the training stints, hitting full throttle right from the start and firing up his engines within a couple of minutes.
Nadal returned to the practice court in the second part of 2023, experiencing a severe hip injury at the Australian Open and missing the rest of the season. The Spaniard underwent surgery in June and started preparations after spending the summer with his family.
Nadal was happy with his pace on the practice court and the gym, feeling confident about his comeback and heading to Australia following his Kuwait excursion with Fils. Rafa picked Brisbane as his first stop, competing for the first time in almost a year.
Arthur Fils described his practice sessions with Rafael Nadal.
A 22-time Major winner faced Dominic Thiem in the first round and thrilled his fans. Rafa moved and hit well, taming his strokes nicely and making the difference with his initial shot.
Nadal broke Thiem’s resistance in the opener’s closing stages, dominating set number two and celebrating his first victory after the most extended break of his career. Rafa had no issues against Jason Kubler in the second round, outplaying the Aussie on serve and return and sailing into the quarter-final.
However, his comeback tale ended against Jordan Thompson following a tough 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 loss in three hours and 25 minutes. Nadal endured a marathon but paid a massive price. The veteran squandered three match points in the second set, including one with a routine forehand error.
Also, his left hip area started hurting again, requiring a medical timeout in the middle of the final set. Rafa lost serve once in the decider, staying on the court until the end but gathering dark clouds over his Australian Open preparations.
Rafa flew to Melbourne, hoping for a positive MRI. However, it showed a micro tear in his muscle. Thus, the Spaniard skipped the season’s first Major, unable to endure the best-of-five efforts. Rafa went home to Spain, and we should see him on the court during the South American clay swing or in March if everything goes well.
“Rafa started hitting hard as soon as we started. He reached high intensity in the first five minutes. I had never seen that before,” Arthur Fils said.