‘Highly motivated’ Nadal ready for Djokovic challenge in Australia | Tennis News

SYDNEY: A ‘highly motivated’ Rafael Nadal has hailed the long-awaited return of his rival Novak Djokovic to the australian open as “good for tennis” on Wednesday, while brushing aside suggestions, it could be his last tilt at the season-opening Grand Slam.
The 36-year-old Spaniard, who recently became a father, begins his new season at the United Cup, a new mixed team event which begins on Thursday in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
It will provide a warm-up for his Australian Open title defense next month at Melbourne Park, where he swept the Russian Daniel Medvedev to win this year in an epic five sets.
The victory came after Novak Djokovic, his rival and nine-time Australian Open winner, was arrested and sent off ahead of the tournament after refusing to get a Covid-19 shot.
Australia has since lifted the requirement for visitors to show proof of Covid vaccination. The Serb returned to the country on Tuesday for the first time since being expelled.
Nadal, who holds a record 22 Grand Slam titles for men to Djokovic’s 21, said he was happy to see his superstar rival back.
“Novak is here, good for the tennis, good for probably the fans,” the world number two said in Sydney. “Let’s see, right? The best players on the field always win.
Fifth-placed Djokovic will begin his quest for an incredible 10th title at Melbourne Park at the Adelaide International from Sunday.
Nadal backed up his Australian Open victory this year with a 14th French Open but struggled with injury after pulling out of the Wimbledon semi-final with a torn abdominal in July.
Despite a poor second half of the year, Nadal said he was eager to come away with a first United Cup clash against British world number 14 Cameron Norrie before a blockbuster showdown with Australia. Nick Kyrgios.
“The highest motivation to try to start well. It’s always important to start well for me, for confidence,” he said.
“The last few months have not been easy for me. The main thing for me now is to regain positive feelings on the court, to be competitive. I hope so. I’m ready to get there, but let’s see.”
Nadal played his first Australian Open in 2004. He is now a father and, with a history of injuries, he was asked if this could be his last trip to Australia.
“As a professional you never know, I hope not,” he said.
“I mean, when you’re 36, you never know when it’s going to be your last. It’s obvious, but I don’t like talking about it because I’m not in the mood right now.
“I’m just focused on trying to play at the highest level possible and giving myself the opportunity to stay competitive, to fight for anything. That’s my focus now.
“I don’t think this will be my last time here. I’m happy doing what I’m doing. I can’t wait to keep doing this.”


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