Rafael Nadal: 'I was not able to practice for 20 minutes'

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Rafael Nadal: 'I was not able to practice for 20 minutes'
Rafael Nadal: 'I was not able to practice for 20 minutes' (Provided by Tennis World USA)

Novak Djokovic's absence made the Australian Open 2022 that much more uncertain. As the only Big 3 present in Melbourne, Rafael Nadal has dreams of winning the 21st Major of his incredible career. The Happy Slam has never been his favorite tournament, as the Spaniard won only once in 2009.

His last final in Oceania dates back to 2019, when he was clearly defeated by Djokovic. The 35-year-old from Manacorí presented himself to this edition of the AO with many doubts, also given his recent positivity to the Coronavirus.

The former World No. 1 suffered heavily last year from a chronic foot problem, which limited him to just seven official tournaments. Despite having lifted a couple of trophies on his beloved clay, the Spaniard was unable to win his 14th Roland Garros.

His walk stopped in the semifinals against Djokovic. At the press conference, Alexander Zverev invited fans and experts not to underestimate Rafa's pride. "I mean, I think, look, I think Novak Djokovic is probably the best. No doubt about it.

He's won the most," Zverev said. "But I think so, I've said it many times before, I think Daniil has won incredible tournaments in the last few months, a few years, so he's one of the best players on hard courts. I've won the Olympics, Tour finals, things like that, so I think I can play pretty well on hard courts.

I think Tsitsipas can play well on hard courts."

Rafael Nadal took on Karen Khachanov

Rafael Nadal beat Karen Khachanov in four sets on Friday to reach the fourth round of the 2022 Australian Open. But after the match, Nadal claimed that there was a time during his injury rehabilitation phase when he doubted whether he could ever return to top-flight tennis.

"Every single day. For a lot of months, sometimes I went on court with the team and was not able to practice for 20 minutes, nowadays for 45 minutes, and then sometimes I was able to practice for two hours. It was very difficult to predict every single day and I was working with the doctor, trying to find a solution.

I was trying different things, it is tough. Even though I went through that process a couple of times in my career, I always say the same," Nadal said. "The injuries are much easier to accept when you know that you have a calendar.

Now, if you twist your ankle or break your wrist; I did a couple of times in my career, then you know it will be three months," he added. "You have an agenda and every week, you do a different thing. But with injuries, honestly, it's much tougher now because everyday, you go to the gym and to the court and without improvement, mentally it's much tougher."

Rafael Nadal Australian Open