BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal has concerns over his surgically repaired left hip just three matches into his comeback from a year-long injury layoff, and just over a week before the Australian Open.

The 22-time major winner needed a medical timeout in the third set of his Brisbane International quarterfinal loss to Jordan Thompson on Friday after failing to convert three match points in the second.

He miscued an overhead backhand on his first match point in the 10th game of the second set, about two hours into the contest. He then missed consecutive forehands from 6-4 in the tiebreaker before No. 55-ranked Thompson rallied to win 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-3.

With the Australian Open starting Jan. 14, Nadal’s rehabilitation from the hip injury and surgery that sidelined him for all of 2023 after the last Australian Open will be tested.

“I hope to have the chance to be practicing next week and to play in Melbourne,” he said. “Honestly, I am not 100% sure of anything now.”

Nadal said it felt more like a muscle issue than the tendon problem that caused him so much trouble last year, and he was hopeful it was just fatigue.

“A lot of things can be happening in a body like my body after a year without playing tennis,” he said. “So hopefully it is just that, just a muscle that is supercharged. If that’s the thing, perfect.”

The 37-year-old Spaniard opened the tournament with straight-sets wins over Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler but was pushed for 3 hours and 25 minutes by Thompson in what was his third match in four nights.

His energy level waned at the start of the third set. And after Thompson took a 4-1 lead, Nadal was assessed by the trainer for his upper left leg and took a medical timeout.

He said the pain was in “a very similar place to what happened last year, but different stuff.”

“It’s not the same like last year at all because when it happened last year, I felt something drastic immediately,” Nadal said. “Today I didn’t feel anything. The only problem is because the place is the same, you’re a little bit more scared.”

After sending a backhand long on match point to end the longest rally of the match, Nadal walked around the net to embrace Thompson. He blew a kiss and waved to the crowd as he walked off Pat Rafter Arena around midnight.

“Obviously he’s one of the best of all time, so there’s no pressure on me,” Thompson said. “But there’s always a sense of pressure playing at home, in front of an Aussie crowd.

“He can destroy an opponent, so there’s always that element that can make you nervous. But you still got to take it to him and play your own game.”

Thompson advanced to a semifinal against second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov.

Top-seeded Holger Rune had a 6-2, 7-6 (6) win over James Duckworth to set up a semifinal against Roman Safiullin, who beat Matteo Arnaldi 7-6 (4), 6-2.


Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka will be on opposite sides of the net in the women’s semifinals almost five years after teaming up on the same court in a Fed Cup semifinal loss to Australia.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka ensured the matchup by extending her winning streak Down Under to 14 with a 6-1, 6-4 win over fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina.

She won a title in Adelaide last year before her Grand Slam breakthrough at Melbourne Park, the start of a 2023 season that also included a run to the U.S. Open final and the semifinals at the French Open and Wimbledon.

Sabalenka was utterly dominant in the first set of her night match in front of a Pat Rafter Arena crowd that included actor Jude Law, pinning Kasatkina on the baseline with her deep, powerful ground strokes.

Sabalenka and Azarenka have both won the Australian Open title and both have been ranked No. 1. They were born in Minsk, Belarus, albeit about nine years apart, but have played only four times previously at the elite level. Sabalenka leads their head-to-head encounters 3-1.

“She’s an amazing player. I was growing watching her,” Sabalenka said of her 34-year-old compatriot. “It’s going to be great battle. I’m really looking forward for that.”

Azarenka, a two-time champion at both the Australian Open (2012 and ’13) and in Brisbane (2009 and ’16) , needed 2 1/2 hours to advance 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 over third-seeded Jelena Ostapenko. who berated the chair umpire in the third set.

Second-seeded Elena Rybakina, who won Wimbledon in 2022 and was runner-up at the Australian Open last year, won the first set 6-1 before 11th-seeded Anastasia Potapova retired from their quarterfinal with an abdominal injury.

She’ll next play Linda Noskova, who beat 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva 7-5, 6-3.


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