With less than a month left for the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal is preparing to hunt down his 21st career Grand Slam. In 2020 the Spanish phenomenon won his 13th Roland Garros, thus equaling the all-time record of eternal rival Roger Federer after a very long chase.
The 34-year-old Majorcan won only once in Melbourne Park, in 2009, losing all four finals played in the last decade (including the 2017 one against Federer). The absence of King Roger in Australia could help Rafa, who will spend the quarantine in Adelaide together with Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and the Top 3 of the women's ranking.
Speaking on the Tennis Channel, American coach Paul Annacone believes Nadal can still win in Melbourne, but he will have to hope not to meet the best version of Djokovic (who beat him in the last act in both 2012 and 2019).
Annacone on Rafael Nadal's chance in Melbourne
“I think very simply, Rafael Nadal is just a little bit worse on hardcourt than Novak Djokovic in particular and Roger Federer as well on a faster hardcourt. But everyone else I’d put him ahead of.
If he plays Novak at the end of the tournament, I’m not betting on him. But if he plays anyone else, I’ll bet on him. I think the biggest thing for Nadal is to get through the first week relatively comfortably”.
said Paul Annacone. However, Annacone compared Nadal’s performances at the Australian Open with US Open, where the latter has won four titles. Having received a brief break before the US Open, Nadal thrives at Flushing Meadows because he already gets a lot of matches under his belt by then.
“This is one of those questions right, that why hasn’t he won more there? Four US Open, it’s hardcourt down in Australia as well. So when he starts the year in Australia, he’s coming off a long break, he gets a couple of matches, maybe the ATP Cup, here and there but by the time US Open comes around, he’s got a little bit of break after Wimbledon.
He’s played three Majors already, so that works well for him,” remarked Annacone. The Double Career Grand Slam is achieved when a player wins every Major title twice. Rafa is incredibly close to bagging this achievement as he just needs 1 Australian Open title.
Unfortunately for him, that 1 title has eluded him over the years. Ever since his win in 2009, the Spaniard has reached 4 finals at Melbourne. Unfortunately, he lost all of them which he’s definitely not happy about. Hopefully, 2021 will be the year he finally gets his hands on the title once more.