'Rafael Nadal does that better than anyone', says legend

Rafael Nadal hasn't started the new season very well

by Simone Brugnoli
'Rafael Nadal does that better than anyone', says legend

Rafael Nadal hasn't started the new season very well and comes to the AOs with many doubts. The former world number 1 arrived in Melbourne well in advance, given the premature elimination of his Spain in the United Cup, and has already held several training sessions on the Rod Laver Arena.

It will not be easy for the Spaniard to defend the title he conquered last year, when he achieved a memorable feat that will forever be etched in the memory of fans. The 36-year-old from Manacor has lost six of his last seven matches on the circuit and seemed rather behind from a physical point of view.

Novak Djokovic will also be at the AO this year, after the Serb was expelled from the country in 2022 due to his vaccination status. Rafa will be the No. 1 seed in Melbourne, having 'benefited' from Carlos Alcaraz's forfeit. The 19-year-old Iberian will miss the first Grand Slam of the season due to a leg injury sustained in training.

Speaking to Eurosport, seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe said the rivalry with Djokovic had helped Nadal improve further.

McEnroe pays tribute to Nadal

"Rafael Nadal’s forced Novak to give more, and he’s better because of it, and then Novak has helped Rafa get better because he doesn’t want Novak to go by him, and that helped Roger, so this was a beautiful thing to watch for the last 10, 15 years," told the American to Eurosport.

"With the players and anyone that watches the sport, you look at the guy and go, ‘oh god, how can that guy want it so much still, it looks like he's never won a major. The greatest single quality an athlete can have is that hunger, and no matter how successful you are, just being willing to do the hard yards and the work it requires to even give yourself a chance, and Rafa does that better than anyone." He added: "He keeps a humbleness and a cockiness at the same time, which is a tricky thing to maneuver, and he does an incredible job of that." McEnroe talked about Djokovic: “The fact that he was still able to go out and win Wimbledon and go out and play these smaller events in the fall to get his ranking high enough so that he can go and win the event in Turin and the year-end event, and embrace playing and competing, was just incredible because it would have been very easy to be frustrated and angry."

Rafael Nadal