Rafael Nadal is on the hunt for his 21st career Grand Slam. If he were to triumph at the Australian Open, the Spanish champion would overtake Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the all-time rankings of the Majors. The former world number 1 won only once in Melbourne back in 2009, but he has every intention of selling his skin dearly.
The 35-year-old from Manacor is back from a very complicated 2021, in which he had to manage a serious foot injury. Rafa played just seven official tournaments last year, while still managing to score a couple of trophies on his beloved clay.
The Majorcan failed to attack his 14th Roland Garros, losing to Djokovic in the semifinals. Foot pain forced him to give up on Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and the US Open. Nadal has delivered convincing performances to the AOs so far.
Denis Shapovalov awaits him in the quarterfinals, who surprisingly eliminated Alexander Zverev. In a recent interview with L’Equipe, former Roland Garros director Guy Forget analyzed the progress of the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
Guy Forget opens up on Nadal
“Rafael Nadal, and this is where he impresses me, is today able to play absolutely all the strokes of tennis: he takes the ball early, he takes the ball late; he drops a drop shot, serves and volleys you when you don't expect it, etc.
Before, against right-handers, he played his backhand quite often along the line, to fall on the opposing backhand and then make the ball come back on his forehand. At one time, it was really the scheme that suited him best, but now he can swing prunes in the backhand diagonal.
He is very, very good, his crossed backhand,” underlined Guy Forget. Right from the start of the tournament, fans and pundits were anticipating a Nadal-Zverev quarter-final matchup. When Nadal was asked during his post-match interview whether he was surprised to see Denis defeating Zverev, the Spaniard shared his opinion over the whole match-up.
“Surprised by Zverev? Not that much. He was a bit favorite probably because of his ranking, but was not a clear favorite. I don’t know if Sascha played well or not. Surprise? Very little. Honestly, no, it was not a clear match at all”.
For Alexander Zverev to witness success in majors, it’s imperative that he produces an impactful performance over the likes of his peers and give himself a better chance of defeating Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. With Zverev’s exit, Nadal will now meet Denis Shapovalov in the last eight at the Australian Open.