Tennis

Nadal to make return in Melbourne exhibition event

Spaniard to spar against the likes of Djokovic and Wawrinka before Australian Open starts on Jan 15

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who is struggling to get any match practice before the Australian Open, will play an exhibition event at Melbourne Park in the week leading up to the season-opening Grand Slam, organisers said on Monday (Jan 1).

The 31-year-old Spaniard has not played since he withdrew from the season-ending World Tour Finals in London in November with a knee injury.

He had already withdrawn from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, this week’s Brisbane International and another event in Sydney, citing a lack of time to properly prepare.

However, the 16-time Grand Slam winner will be part of the winner-takes-all Tie Break Tens event at Melbourne Park on Jan 10, five days before the Australian Open begins.

“Tie Break Tens is a great concept and we will see and play some exciting matches,” Nadal said in a statement.

“The field is fantastic and I expect some tough competition which will be great for the Aussie fans.”

The eight-man field includes Novak Djokovic, three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, and former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt.

Each match is comprised solely of super tie breaks to 10 points. The knockout tournament provides a winner take-all purse of US$250,000 (S$334,000).

“It really will be an intriguing contest,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.

“These guys are all coming in at different stages of their preparation, but once their competitive instincts kick in, which will be almost instant in this format, there will be some absorbing contests.

“Remember, there is not much room for error. You lose the tie break and you are out.” – Reuters

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