Rafael Nadal is feeling positive ahead of the Australian Open despite suffering his worst-ever start to a season by losing his first two matches. The world No 2 will attempt to defend his title in Melbourne next week and claimed he was in “good shape” despite a series of injury woes last season and his recent defeats.
Nadal has given his verdict on his Australian Open hopes following a tough start to the year, which saw him defeated in his first two matches against Cameron Norrie and Alex de Minaur at the United Cup. As well as his losing start to 2023, the Spaniard suffered two abdominal tears in the second half of 2022 and played just four tournaments after Wimbledon so he has few matches under his belt.
While things haven’t turned out as he would have liked in competitive matches, the defending champion in Australia admitted he was feeling good about his preparation. “Well, it’s true that the last couple of months I was not able to play much tennis and at the beginning of the season I lost two matches in Sydney, but honestly, I am not unhappy with the preparation,” the 36-year-old admitted.
“I need to win matches for sure. But the preparation is going quite well, practising a lot and I think I am in good shape.” While Nadal knew that it was one thing to feel good on the practice court and another to translate it to a real match, the 22-time Grand Slam champion had the belief that his hard work would pay off in competition.
The world No 2 continued: “Then you need to demonstrate that in the matches, in the official tournaments. But I’m confident that if I am able to have this last week of positive practices, why not?”
Nadal also came into last year’s Australian Open with doubts over how he would perform, having ended his 2021 season early as a result of his ongoing foot injury, but he managed to win what was a then-record 21st Grand Slam title, extending his own historic achievement by winning number 22 at the French Open.
While the Spaniard had even less match play at the back-end of the 2021 season than he did in 2022, he also managed to win the title at the Melbourne ATP 250 ahead of the Australian Open last year. While it wasn’t the same story when Spain took on Britain and Australia at the inaugural United Cup last week, Nadal was happy to return to Melbourne with the memories of last year’s triumph.
“I’m very happy to be back in Melbourne. Last year was an unforgettable one,” he said on Tuesday, having played his first two matches of the year in Sydney. Nadal will be the top seed at this year’s Australian Open following the withdrawal of world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz. (Express)