Getty Images

Rafael Nadal's return is off to a shaky start. The 22-time Grand Slam champion has withdrawn from the Australian Open because of an injury, but fortunately it might not be too big of a set back. 

Nadal was out virtually all of the 2023 season after he suffered a hip injury during the second round of last year's Australian Open. The Spanish star underwent surgery in June and said he intends to retire at the end of the 2024. His goal was "to try and enjoy and say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important to me" this year.

He was already in Australia and made it to the Brisbane International quarterfinals earlier this week. That was his first singles competition since January 2023. However, Nadal said that during Brisbane he had "a small problem on a muscle" on his hip that worried him. Nadal said he got an MRI in Melbourne and was found to have a "micro tear" on a muscle, but fortunately it was not in the same part where he had the surgery.

Nadal is flying back to Spain to see his doctor, get treatment and rest. The Australian Open is set to start Jan. 14. The next Grand Slam will be the French Open in May, which should give Nadal plenty of time to heal. While he was only won two titles at Melbourne, he has won a record 14 championships at Roland-Garros. 

"I have worked very hard during the year for this comeback and as I always mentioned my goal is to be at my best level in 3 months," Nadal wrote on X. "Within the sad news for me for not being able to play in front of the amazing Melbourne crowds, this is not very bad news and we all remain positive with the evolution for the season. I really wanted to play here in Australia and I have had the chance to play a few matches that made me very happy and positive."