Nadal not both­ered by lack of ma­jor warm-up

Aus­tralian Open

Sport360 - - Front Page - By Staff Re­porter @Sport360 ed­i­to­

Top seed Rafael Nadal starts the Aus­tralian Open for the first time in his ca­reer without play­ing a warmup tour­na­ment, and no un­cle Toni by his side.

But the Span­ish star said 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 lead-up Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional this month, and he has only had a one-match work­out at the ex­hi­bi­tion Kooy­ong Clas­sic in Mel­bourne ahead of the Grand Slam start­ing tomorrow.

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

“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 31-yearold, who played his first Aus­tralian Open in 2004.

“I feel that I had a good weekand-a-half of prac­tice.

“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. Nadal played Aus­trian world No5 Dominic Thiem this week on a prac­tice court un­der full match con­di­tions, with ball kids, score­board, and um­pire.

“I wanted to play a cou­ple of close com­pe­ti­tion matches. I played in Kooy­ong once. The club in Kooy­ong is great, but at the same time the con­di­tions com­pletely dif­fer­ent from here,” he ex­plained.

“Talk­ing with the Aus­tralian Open, yeah, they gave us the chance to play like an open prac­tice but closer to the match for the crowd.

“We did it. It was a good prac­tice, good feel­ings for both of us I think. The job was done the right way.”

De­spite his achieve­ments in a long ca­reer, motivation for Nadal, who needs to reach the quar­ter­fi­nals to be cer­tain of re­tain­ing his world num­ber one rank­ing with Fed­erer breath­ing down his neck, re­mains undi­min­ished.

Not only can he clinch a 17th

Grand Slam in Mel­bourne, but he also has the op­por­tu­nity to join Roy Emer­son and Rod Laver as only the third man in the Open era to win each of the four Grand Slams twice.

The only place he is yet to achieve the dou­ble is Aus­tralia. “For me, the Aus­tralian Open al­ways. If you are not 100 per cent mo­ti­vated to play this tour­na­ment, you prob­a­bly don’t love this sport,” he said.

But he knows any­thing can hap­pen early in the sea­son, de­spite be­ing the top ranked player in the world. “Ev­ery­one starts from zero. I start from zero again,” he said.

In Mel­bourne, Nadal is at his first ma­jor tour­na­ment in years without his un­cle Toni, who coached him from child­hood un­til af­ter his US Open win last year. Toni Nadal is now coach­ing at the Rafael Nadal Academy, with his nephew un­der the tute­lage of Car­los Moya.

“In terms of pro­fes­sional things, I spoke to him few days ago, speak­ing about how the life go­ing, how the ten­nis go­ing,” he said of Toni.

“If I have some­thing to ask, I ask him. If he has some­thing to tell me, he call me and tell me.”

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