The absence of Novak Djokovic made the Australian Open 2022 much more uncertain. As the only Big 3 present in Melbourne, Rafael Nadal has the dream of winning the 21st Major of his amazing career. The Happy Slam has never been his favorite tournament of him, as the Spaniard won only once back in 2009.
His last 'Down Under' final dates back to 2019, when he was clearly beaten by Djokovic. The 35-year-old from Manacor presented himself to this edition of the AO with many doubts, also given his recent positivity to the Coronavirus.
The former world number 1 suffered greatly last year from a chronic foot problem, which limited him to just seven official tournaments. Despite having raised a couple of trophies on his beloved clay, the Majorcan was unable to conquer his 14th Roland Garros.
His ride stopped in the semifinals against Djokovic. At the press conference, Alexander Zverev invited fans and insiders not to underestimate Rafa's pride.
Zverev on Rafael Nadal
"I mean, I think, look, I think Novak Djokovic is probably the best.
No question about it. He's won the most," Zverev said. "But I think, yeah, I have said this a lot before, I think Daniil has won incredible tournaments the last few months, few years, so he's one of the best players on hard courts.
I've won the Olympics, Tour Finals, stuff like that, so, I mean, I think I can play quite well on hard courts. I think Tsitsipas can play well on hard courts." Zverev also tipped Rafael Nadal, who he could face in the last eight, as one of the players who could triumph in Melbourne this year.
"But I do think that Rafa right now is playing incredible tennis again. He's not somebody that you can forget this tournament," he added. Coming to tennis, Rafael Nadal had an easy opening-round victory against Marcos Giron of the USA.
He defeated the American in straight sets 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 49 minutes. The fifth-seed faced Yannick Hanfmann of Germany in the second round and beat him in straight sets as well, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. Can Nadal lift a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title? With Novak Djokovic out of the Happy Skan even before his first match, Nadal is the only one from the ‘big three’ in the fray for this year’s title.
However, he will face some stern challenges from next-gen stars in the form of Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev.