Rafael Nadal reflects on tough spell ahead of his Australian Open title defence

Rafael Nadal is unconcerned with his recent lack of victories as he prepares to defend his Australian Open crown with a tough first-round match up against Jack Draper when the tournament begins next week.

The Spanish legend has had an unhappy time of it on the courts of late with defeats to Australia’s Alex de Minaur and Britain’s Cameron Norrie in the United Cup, before also falling to world No. 11 Hubert Hurkacz in a practice match.

Rafael Nadal in a relaxed mood ahead of Australian Open title defence 

“I have been losing more than usual, but that’s part of the business,” Nadal told reporters in Melbourne.

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“I think I am humble enough to accept that situation and just work with what I have today.

“I need to build again all this momentum. I need to build again this confidence with myself with victories. But it’s true that I have been losing more than usual.”

The 36-year-old shocked the tennis world at the Aussie Open last year when he fought back from long-term injury to claim his 22nd grand slam after a five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev.

However, the Spaniard acknowledged that a year on from that memorable triumph, he had a tough road ahead of him starting with his match against Draper on Monday, January 16.

“Probably one of the toughest first-round possible, being seeded,” Nadal said.

“Young, powerful, growing very, very fast on the ranking, playing well.

“A big challenge for me at the beginning to start the tournament. Let’s see. I’m here to just give myself a chance.”

Despite “losing more than usual”, the No.1 seed remains confident while highlighting how he may have been unlucky in his recent clashes.

“By the way, I didn’t play that bad the first two matches the year,” he said. “I lost against two great opponents.

“My situation, I don’t know what can happen on Monday, but my personal feeling, without a doubt, is better now than three weeks ago.”

MORE: Is Rafael Nadal finished? Australian Open champion struggling to win matches

This year’s instalment of the Aus Open will be a landmark occasion for the tennis great who has seen and experienced just about everything during his illustrious career.

One major difference though will see him competing in a grand slam for the first time as a father. Yet he was adamant his preparation was the best he’d enjoyed for a decade with his family in tow.  

“I practice probably more than ever, more than the last 10 years the last three weeks,” he said.

“Yeah, have been a positive experience in all ways. I’m very satisfied about these three weeks of work and, of course, having the family with me.”

Nadal criticises the quality of the balls at the Australian Open 

Nadal voiced his concerns over the quality of the balls that will be utilised this year, explaining how the lack of spin on the ball was negatively impacting upon his game.

“The speed of the court I think is not a big difference,” he said.

“The ball, yes. I don’t know. They say (it) is the same, but the ball is worse quality, without a doubt.

“After a couple of hits, the ball loses the pressure. It’s more difficult to hit with the right spin.

“But I think it’s easier to play when you play flatter on the shots. But I need to live with it. I think I practiced enough with the ball to be ready for it.”

Nadal declared how it was not “going to be the end of the world” if he was unable to overcome Draper on Monday but had left no stone unturned in trying to emulate his 2022 success. 

“What happened last year is going to stay in my heart and my memory forever,” he said.

“One of the most emotional victories of my tennis career, without a doubt.

“A lot of emotions coming back from a long injury. The love of the people, the atmosphere we lived here on Rod Laver Arena in that final, have been unforgettable for me.

“The sport goes fast. What happened last year is already past.

“But in sports, especially in a sport like tennis, people remember the victories…People are going to remember that today I have 22 grand slams, not that I lost another 50.”  

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