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Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka return for Brisbane International | 'What's really possible is to enjoy the comeback'

A hip injury has kept Rafael Nadal out of action for a year; he will return at the Brisbane International, saying: "Just to be here is a victory"; Naomi Osaka also comes back and will have her first match since 2022; Watch the Brisbane International live on Sky Sports

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Rafael Nadal says there are no expectations on his return to Brisbane International as he sets to return from a year-long injury

Rafael Nadal is playing down his return to tennis after being out of action for a year.

The Spanish legend will play in his first tournament in almost 12 months at the Brisbane International, live on Sky Sports.

The 37-year-old has been kept out of competition by a hip injury. The 22-time Grand Slam singles champion's last match was a second-round loss at the Australian Open last January, and Nadal eventually decided to have surgery on his hip in June.

Rafael Nadal of Spain makes a public appearance in the Queen Street Mall ahead of the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia, Friday, Dec. 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)
Image: Nadal surrounded by fans in Australia

Thousands queued for a glimpse of Nadal on Friday at a fan appearance. But Nadal would not put pressure on himself to win a title in Brisbane, or a third Australian Open crown later in January.

"It's impossible to think about winning tournaments today," he said. "What's really possible is to enjoy the comeback. I don't expect much - one year without being on the court.

"I don't say that nothing is impossible, but just to be here is a victory."

But he was quick to mention his Melbourne Park wins when prompted, two against-the-odds titles won in 2009 and 2022 that set aside his low expectations then.

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In 2009 he outlasted countryman Fernando Verdasco over five hours in the semi-final before beating Roger Federer two days later in a four-hour final.

Thirteen years later, after six months sidelined with a foot injury, he came from two sets behind to beat Daniil Medvedev in the final.

"I still don't know [how he won that in 2009]. Before the match it was impossible to imagine myself winning that match," he said.

Nadal has warned that 2024 is "probably going to be my last year on the professional tour".

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Novak Djokovic says he wants 'at least one more match' against Nadal

But he said he was encouraged by his fitness, confessing he feels "much better than what I expected a month ago".

"I can't have super long-term goals because I don't see myself playing a super long time," he said on Friday.

"I don't know how things are going to keep going. I'm not a player who tries to predict what can happen in the short term, and it's even tougher in the medium period of time.

"How I need to approach this process is accepting the adversity and that things aren't going to be perfect at the beginning. I just have to stay with the right attitude and the working spirit every day."

Osaka: I can handle a lot

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Naomi Osaka says she wants to show her daughter 'she's capable of everything' as the former world number one sets to return to Brisbane International following the birth of daughter Shai

Former No 1 and new mom Naomi Osaka is in the women's field and will make her WTA return at the tournament.

Like Nadal she wasn't focusing on winning the title in Brisbane.

"That's a tough question because I haven't played in more than a year. I don't know. I think I have given myself the biggest chance to do well but at the same time I haven't had any match play. Of course, this is the first tournament of the year as well, so I think I'm just embracing the fact that it's my first tournament in a very long time," she said.

A two-time Australian Open and US Open champion, Osaka pulled out of last year's Australian Open in Melbourne before later revealing she was pregnant.

Naomi Osaka last played a WTA tournament at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in late September 2022
Image: Osaka last played a WTA tournament at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in late September 2022

She will play her first match since 2022 in Brisbane. "Being a mum has changed my life a lot. I think it changed my perspective on a lot of things," she said.

"Giving birth was one of the most painful things I've ever gone through. It's definitely made me feel like physically I can handle a lot.

"I want to show Shai [her daughter] that she's capable of everything, so that's one of my main purposes and main reasons why I want to be back out here."

The Brisbane International is live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Mix from 1am on Sunday morning

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