Nadal to start campaign at Brisbane International

Rafael Nadal will be one of the headline acts in Brisbane next January.
Rafael Nadal will be one of the headline acts in Brisbane next January. GERRY PENNY

TENNIS: Fourteen-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will commence his 2017 season in Australia for the first time when he joins the Brisbane International field.

Nadal completes a clean sweep of the Big Four to step out at Pat Rafter Arena, with fellow men's tennis stars Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all having competed in Brisbane in recent years.

Federer, who had played in Brisbane the past three years before he elected to instead play Perth's Hopman Cup next summer, has been a major drawcard for the event. His greatest rival in Nadal will be a sure-fire favourite with fans in the Swiss star's place.

The Spaniard has traditionally favoured Doha, Qatar, to start his new year campaign, but will break with tradition in January for his maiden appearance in Queensland.

"It's going to be the first time in my career that I'm going to play in Australia the first week of the season and I'm really excited about it," Nadal said of the Brisbane International, which will be held at Queensland Tennis Centre from January 1-8.

"I think this is something I have to do during my career and I think at the same time it's going to be a great preparation to be in Australia early. Everybody who has been in Brisbane has told me very beautiful things about the tournament and the place so I want to try it."

The world No.5 teamed with compatriot Marc Lopez to win gold in the men's doubles at the Rio Olympics. The 2008 Beijing Olympics singles champion lost in the bronze medal play-off in Brazil but it was a remarkable return to form for the 30-year-old who had not played since he withdrew from a third round match at the French Open in May.

Nadal will be the No.4 seed for next week's US Open, behind defending champion Djokovic, No. 2 and Rio gold medallist Murray and No. 3 Stan Wawrinka.

Australian Nick Kyrgios is seeded No. 14 due to injury-enforced absences of world No. 4 Roger Federer and No. 8 Tomas Berdych. Compatriot Bernard Tomic is the No. 17 seed.

Both Kyrgios and Samantha Stosur, the women's No. 16 seed, have been handed crucial top-16 spots in their respective draws. The top-16 seeding affords them protection from the world's top eight players until at least the fourth round.

Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion, jumped a spot after world No.7 Victoria Azarenka pulled out of the tournament having announced her pregnancy.

Six-time US Open champion Serena Williams is the women's top seed after narrowly holding on to the No. 1 ranking from German Angelique Kerber. Only 190 points separate the Australian Open finalists with a loss in the Cincinnati final denying the German, a silver medallist in Rio, top spot.

Neither Williams nor Djokovic has played a match since early exits at the Rio Olympics. Williams later said she was dealing with a right shoulder problem, while Djokovic said his left wrist was sore.

Play at Flushing Meadows, featuring a new retractable roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium, starts Monday.

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