Novak Djokovic's classy move amid Rafa Nadal return ahead of Australian Open

The World No.1 shared a classy message after Rafa Nadal's comeback match.

Rafa Nadal celebrates and Novak Djokovic reacts in a press conference.
Novak Djokovic (pictured right) was quick to praise Rafa Nadal (pictured left) for his comeback to the tour after nearly a year our. (Getty Images)

Rafa Nadal made his long awaited singles comeback on Tuesday night with the tennis world watching on and Novak Djokovic was just one star to take the time to praise his rival. Nadal hasn't played a competitive singles tennis match since his exit from last year's Australian Open, which saw him hurt his hip in a season-ending injury.

The Spaniard confirmed last year that 2024 would most likely be his last playing tennis and admitted he was doing everything he could to reach the Australian Open. And Nadal took a massive step towards his goal having defeated Dominic Thiem in the first round of the Brisbane International.

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The 37-year-old may have dropped to World No.692 during his absence, but he came back after a year appearing to be in top shape. His famous forehand was firing and his determination was still on display, but it was his movement against Thiem that left many in the tennis world surprised.

"Today is honestly an emotional and important day for me," he said. "After probably one of the toughest years of my tennis career without a doubt, I have the chance to come back after a year and play in front of an amazing crowd.

"And play at the very positive level on the first day (of my comeback) is something that probably make us feel proud now to myself, to all the family that have been there every single day during the last year."

Rafa Nadal thanks the crowd.
Rafa Nadal (pictured) was thrilled to have come away with the victory in his first singles match in almost a year. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

And the tennis world was thrilled with Nadal's return. And long-time rival Djokovic also praised the Spaniard's comeback. Taking to social media, Djokovic showed his class to congratulate Nadal, Emma Raducanu and Naomi Osaka who all took time away from the sport last year for various reasons.

"Welcome back," Djokvoic posted, with a photo of Nadal playing in Brisbane. If Nadal is able to regain some of his form from 2022, the duo will go head-to-head for supremacy at the Australian Open this year.

Djokovic wasn't the only one thrilled to see Nadal return to the court. Fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz wrote: "What a joy to see you again on court. Rafa," on Nadal's social media post. Others also joined in on the fanfare having seen the 22-time grand slam champ return to Australia.

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Nadal was also made aware that his victory against Thiem was his 1,069th win singles win throughout his career. This took him to outright fourth on the list, past Ivan Lendl. Nadal admitted his surprise at the stat on court. His victory over Thiem meant Nadal has also won a singles match on tour every year dating back to 2002.

And the Spaniard was full of praise for the Brisbane crowd who were fired up to see Nadal back in Australia after almost a year. "The support is super important, especially when in the low moments," Nadal said.

"So to have the chance to receive thousands of messages during all this year and having great people next to me every single day makes the difference without a doubt. I missed being healthy. I missed, of course, feeling myself competitive and playing in front of full crowds like this." Next up for Nadal is Australian Jason Kubler who received a walkover win against Aslan Karatsev in the first round.

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