Rafael Nadal will headline the Melbourne 250 event the week before the 2022 AO.
The 2022 season will begin with a bang.

Get ready for Rafa time.

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Rafael Nadal will make his Tour-level return at the Melbourne 250 tournament, set for January 3-9th. Grigor Dimitrov, Kei Nishikori, Reilly Opelka, Alexei Popyrin, David Goffin and Jordan Thompson are among the players set to join Nadal in the Melbourne 250 field.

It will be Nadal's first ATP event in five months. Nadal pulled the plug on his 2021 season to rehab a chronic foot injury following a three-set loss to Lloyd Harris in Washington, DC last August.

The 35-year-old Nadal, who is scheduled to play the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi this month, will use the Melbourne 250 as preparation for the Australian Open, which begins on January 17th.

The sixth-ranked Spaniard and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is on the entry list for the ATP Cup in Sydney and the Australian Open, are both chasing a men's record 21st Grand Slam championship at the 2022 Australian Open.

The Big 3—Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer—are deadlocked at 20 Grand Slam titles apiece.

Two-time Olympic gold medal champion Nadal cites Djokovic's lofty level of play—and the fact rival Federer is rehabbing from his fourth knee surgery and the Spaniard himself is coming back from a foot injury—pointing to the 34-year-old Serbian owning the men’s major mark when all is said and done.

“Djokovic is best positioned to be the player with the most Grand Slams," Nadal said in an interview with Vamos on Movistar+.

"You don't have to fool yourself—Federer is where he is and I am where I am,” Nadal said. “However, Djokovic is playing well and in a good moment.”

Tennis Express

Nadal has won at least one title an Open Era-record 18 straight years. However, Djokovic, who has won 30 of 58 career matches vs. Nadal, has dominated the Spaniard on hard courts. In hard-court clashes, Djokovic is riding a nine-match winning streak and a 19-set winning streak vs. Nadal since losing to the left-hander at the 2013 US Open.

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