Rafael Nadal's 2023 has not started in the best of ways. Two defeats in as many games played, against Cameron Norrie and Alex De Miñaur, make the situation of the Balearic Islands worrying, to say the least. If the premature elimination of his Spain from the United Cup is not in itself a bitter disappointment, the two setbacks suffered by the British tennis player and the Australian are a small wake-up call ahead of the most important commitment to be held from 16 to 30 January, the Australian Open.
However, the 22-time Slam champion's form is improving, having gone down a set in both matches and then has come from behind, thanks to a form that is still not great. In Melbourne, his next match, Nadal will arrive with a record of six losses in his last eight.
However, his elimination from the United Cup, which he has not won, might not be the only bad news from his unfortunate start to the year in Australia. In case of victory for Casper Ruud, who plays tomorrow against the Italian Matteo Berrettini, he would complete the overtaking of the Spanish phenomenon by five points.
The Norwegian talent, finalist at Roland Garros and the US Open, has 5,720 points in the ATP ranking. Nadal, defeated and eliminated, has 5,770. A victory would give him 55 points tomorrow, which would give him 2nd place. Italy and Norway are drawn in Group E in Brisbane, and the Azzurri currently lead the Scandinavian team by two points, thanks to Martina Trevisan's victory over Malene Helgo, while Lorenzo Musetti got rid of the modest Viktor Durasovic.
There is also the possibility, albeit remote, of a double overtaking. If Stefanos Tsitsipas, momentarily at 5555, took his Greece to the final, or even lifted the trophy, he would put the arrow on the 36-year-old, beating him in the standings.
Rafa has lost six of his last seven matches
Retired Australian tennis pro Paul McNamee believes Rafael Nadal will have a tough time defending his Australian Open title this year. "This time Djokovic, the nine-time champion and deserved favorite is here, and Nadal is not even the highest ranked Spaniard!
That mantle belongs to world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz – young, strong and hyper-quick, someone Aussie crowds do need to see," he wrote in his column for The Age. "The X-factor is Nadal’s body. There is speculation his abdominal injury is affecting his ball toss but, for me, more concerning is his own recent admission: “I need to get a little faster physically”.
Court coverage has always been a major asset of Nadal’s but, and this is a cruel thing to say, I fear he’s lost a yard," he expressed.