A “extremely motivated” Rafael Nadal welcomed rival Novak Djokovic’s much-anticipated return to the Australian Open as “good for tennis” Wednesday, whereas disregarding strategies this can be his final tilt on the season-opening Grand Slam.
The 36-year-old Spanish nice, who not too long ago turned a father, is starting his new season on the United Cup, a brand new mixed-teams occasion beginning Thursday in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
It is going to present a warm-up for his protection of the Australian Open title subsequent month at Melbourne Park, the place he swept previous Russian Daniil Medvedev to win this yr in an epic five-setter.
That victory got here after arch-rival and nine-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic was detained and deported forward of the match after refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Australia has since lifted its requirement for guests to indicate proof of vaccination in opposition to Covid. The Serb arrived back in the country on Tuesday for the primary time since being turfed out.
Nadal, who has a record men’s 22 Grand Slam titles to Djokovic’s 21, stated he was completely satisfied to see his celebrity rival again.
“Novak is right here, good for tennis, good for most likely the followers,” the world quantity two stated in Sydney. “Let’s see, no? Finest gamers on court docket at all times win.”
Fifth-ranked Djokovic will start his quest for an unbelievable tenth title at Melbourne Park on the Adelaide Worldwide from Sunday.
Nadal backed up his Australian Open win this yr with a 14th French Open however struggled with harm after withdrawing from the Wimbledon semi-final with an abdominal tear in July.
Regardless of a poor second half of the yr, Nadal stated he was raring to go once more with a conflict first up on the United Cup in opposition to British world quantity 14 Cameron Norrie forward of a blockbuster showdown with Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.
“The very best motivation to attempt to begin nicely. It’s at all times essential to start out nicely for me, for the arrogance,” he stated.
“The previous couple of months haven’t been straightforward for me. Fundamental factor for me now’s recuperate the optimistic emotions on court docket, being aggressive. I hope to. I’m able to make that occur, however let’s see.”
Nadal performed his first Australian Open in 2004. He’s now a father, and with a historical past of accidents he was requested if this might be his final journey to Australia.
“As knowledgeable, you by no means know, hopefully not,” he stated.
“I imply, when you find yourself on the age of 36, you by no means know when it’s going to be the final one. It’s apparent, however I don’t like to speak about that as a result of I’m not in that temper now.
“I’m simply targeted on attempting to play on the highest stage attainable and provides myself potentialities to maintain being aggressive, to struggle for something. That’s my purpose now.
“I’m not desirous about it being my final time right here. I’m completely satisfied doing what I’m doing. I’m wanting ahead to maintain doing this.”
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