Thursday, March 30, 2023

Australian Open: ‘Vulnerable’ Nadal says Djokovic favorite for title in Melbourne

Defending champion Rafael Nadal admitted on Saturday that he felt weak heading into the Australian Open after two straight defeats within the build-up and mentioned Novak Djokovic was clear favorite.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner crashed in his season-opening match on the combined groups United Cup in Sydney to Twelfth-ranked Cameron Norrie after which once more to Australia’s Alex de Minaur.

Towards the Australian, the Spaniard dropped six consecutive video games after main by a set and 1-0.

The 36-year-old prime seed faces a testing first-round conflict at Melbourne Park on Monday towards rising 21-year-old Briton Jack Draper, who reached the Adelaide semi-finals this week.

“Probably one of the toughest first rounds possible… young, powerful, growing very, very fast in the rankings, playing well,” he mentioned.

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

Nadal has misplaced six of his final seven matches stretching again to defeat to Frances Tiafoe within the final 16 on the US Open.

Requested if he felt weak, the defending champion admitted: “Of course, without a doubt.

“I have been losing more than usual, that’s part of the business. Just accept the situation. 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.”

Nadal, who not too long ago turned a father, swept previous Russian Daniil Medvedev to win the Australian Open and a twenty first Grand Slam title final yr in an epic five-setter.

That victory got here after arch-rival and nine-time Australian Open winner Djokovic was detained and deported forward of the match after refusing to get vaccinated for Covid-19.

The Serbian star, trying to equal Nadal’s record-breaking 22 Slam titles, is again this yr and in prime kind after successful the Adelaide Worldwide I occasion final week.

That adopted one other ATP Finals crown in late 2022.

– ‘Djokovic favourite’ –

Nadal informed Spanish reporters that his long-time rival was the clear favorite.

“Djokovic seems to be very well prepared. He got great results at the end of the year, he has also started the year winning. It is a tournament that has always been good to him,” he mentioned.

“If we talk about favourites, on Saturday before the start of the tournament, there is no doubt that he is the top favourite to win the title.

“But tournaments are not won on the Saturday before, you have to work for two weeks, although he has shown that he knows how to do it very well.

“If he wins, we will congratulate him, he will have done something historic, and that’s it. My life is not going to change.”

Regardless of dropping his solely two matches this yr, Nadal insisted he was bettering by the day and had practised extra in the previous couple of weeks than ever earlier than.

“My personal momentum is not bad, I tell you. I am good and happy. I’m practising well,” he mentioned.

“I feel faster in the legs. I feel I’m playing better with more confidence,” he added.

“The last three weeks of preparation here have been very positive from my point of view.”

Most Popular