Rafael Nadal was a popular selfie target at Brisbane Airport.
Rafael Nadal was a popular selfie target at Brisbane Airport.

Rafa jets in as Open plans take off

Rafael Nadal's 14th Australian Open campaign is underway after the Spanish tennis superstar took a flight into Brisbane on Sunday night.

Nadal arrived on a flight from Abu Dhabi under continuing scrutiny of his fitness for the hardcourt grind, especially over the Grand Slam best-of-five distance.

 

Nadal cancelled a planned second exhibition match on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, saying one match was enough after a break of almost four months without a match due to knee and ankle injuries.

"I suffered a lot in terms of injury. I don't want to suffer more,'' a cautious Nadal said on Saturday.

The 32-year-old Spaniard has flagged that he will be down to business at the Queensland Tennis Centre on Monday with a practice session which will draw hundreds to an outside court on the first day of the Brisbane International.

Nadal will have a first-round bye in his second Brisbane International campaign and will play either France's flamboyant Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Australian qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round.

 

He’s here! Rafael Nadal has arrived in Brisbane.
He’s here! Rafael Nadal has arrived in Brisbane.

Australian No.1 Alex de Minaur is seeded to confront Nadal in a quarter-final at Pat Rafter Arena.

Nadal will play as many as four matches in Brisbane if he deems it good for his readiness for the Australian Open, from which he withdrew during his semi-final last summer due to injury.

He has also agreed to play a Fast4 modified scores event in Sydney next week.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion made the Australian final after his only previous Brisbane campaign, losing a gripping five-set encounter to Roger Federer.

It was the third time Nadal has lost an Australian Open final and he won his 2009 Melbourne Park final against Federer to complete a career Grand Slam.

"He is coming back from injury like I am, so we are kind of in the same situation,'' said Tsonga, who enters the tournament on an injury-protected ranking.

"It's very challenging, but very cool.''