Rafael Nadal's first tournament since August 2021 ended with the Spaniard claiming his first trophy of the 2022 season, winning the Melbourne Summer Set. The former world number one was forced to end his 2021 campaign prematurely owing to a recurring foot injury before making his competitive return in Melbourne last week.

The 35-year-old did play an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, where he lost both his matches, but looked to have overcome his injury and a bout with Covid-19 on his way to the title on Sunday. Nadal beat American qualifier Maxime Cressy 7-6(6), 6-2 in just under two hours at Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal's victory puts him in good stead going into the Australian Open that begins next week. The Spaniard said that he felt "lucky" to be back on court after a difficult period with injuries, and even more so to end his return with a trophy.

"I want to thank all the organisation here," Nadal said during the trophy ceremony, as quoted on ATP's official site. "I feel privileged and a very lucky guy to be here again. I am coming back from some challenging moments in terms of injuries, so I can't be happier. It means a lot to be back and with a trophy in my hands."

The Spaniard, who is tied on 20 Grand Slam titles with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, will certainly be hoping for a repeat in three weeks' time on the same court. The Rod Laver Arena will host the Australian Open men's singles final, and Nadal will be among the favourites for the title after claiming the Melbourne Summer Set trophy.

"This court has always been very, very special for me," Nadal said. "The Rod Laver Arena is very, very special for everyone and it is more special because of you guys. You guys are a great crowd and I can't thank you enough."

Nadal has dropped to number six in the men's singles ranking owing to his lengthy absence from the ATP Tour in 2021.

Rafael Nadal
"The only for me clear thing is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere," said Rafael Nadal on Thursday Mike FREY/AFP