Nadal ready de­spite lack of Aussie Open lead-up

The Hitavada - - SPORTS -

TOP seed Rafael Nadal starts the Aus­tralian Open next week for the first time in his ca­reer without play­ing a warm-up tour­na­ment, and no un­cle Toni by his side.

But the Span­ish star said on Satur­day he feels good and his mo­ti­va­tion re­mains strong.

Nadal, who is gun­ning for a 17th ma­jor ti­tle but only his sec­ond Aus­tralian Open crown, was ham­pered by a knee in­jury at the tail-end of the 2017 sea­son.

It forced him to skip the leadup Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional this month, and he has only had a one­match work­out at the ex­hi­bi­tion Kooy­ong Clas­sic in Melbourne ahead of the Grand Slam start­ing Mon­day.

Yet he is un­fazed and rar­ing to go as seeks to go one bet­ter than last year when he lost an epic Melbourne Park fi­nal to Roger Fed­erer.

“Is the first time I am here without play­ing an of­fi­cial match in my ca­reer. It’s a new sit­u­a­tion for me. But I feel good,” said the 31year-old, who played his first Aus­tralian Open in 2004.

“I feel that I had a good weekand-a-half of prac­tices. I really hope to be ready. I feel my­self more or less play­ing well.”

With so few matches un­der his belt ahead of the sea­son- open­ing Grand Slam, he asked or­gan­is­ers if they could do him a spe­cial favour, and they obliged.

It saw Nadal play Aus­trian world num­ber five Do­minic Thiem this week on a prac­tice court un­der full match con­di­tions, with ball kids, score­board, and um­pire.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal hits a re­turn dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion ahead of the Aus­tralian Open tour­na­ment in Melbourne. (AFP)

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