The 2021 Australian Open did not start under the best auspices for Rafael Nadal. The winner of the 2009 edition is struggling with a back problem, which forced him to skip the entire ATP Cup last week. Even before the start of the Happy Slam, the Spanish phenomenon had admitted that he had not yet recovered 100%, however silencing any allegations relating to his possible forfeit.
In spite of a physical form not yet at the top, the former world number 1 got rid of Laslo Djere's debut with a score of 6-3 6-4 6-1 offering a good performance on the Rod Laver Arena. In the event of a second triumph in Melbourne Park, the 34-year-old Majorcan would be able to break Roger Federer in the Grand Slam standings for the first time.
Bad luck has often stood in the way of the history between Nadal and the Australian Open, probably costing him the 2014 final against Stan Wawrinka. Speaking on Eurosport, former Swedish legend Mats Wilander assured that Rafa will give his all to win this tournament again.
Wilander on Rafael Nadal
“His past injury issues ahead of the Australian Open could come from the fact he has to work on hard courts for a couple of months getting ready for Australia, that’s the first thing,” Mats Wilander said.
“You would think he would be more injured during the clay court season because he plays so many more matches, we know Rafael Nadal likes to play a lot of matches, likes to get his confidence. Maybe when he trains, I can see also that he pushes himself harder because he needs that confidence and he needs to be out there.
We have seen him during tournaments hitting ball after ball after ball and the other players don’t do that – he works really hard, even during majors. It could be a combination of hard courts and practising, needs more repetition and pushes himself hard.
This is Rafa Nadal, this is what he has done throughout his whole career and he is going to push himself to the limit”. Nadal admitted he was delighted with his performance after the match against Deere, saying: “It’s been a tough 15 days for me because I had some tough issues with the back so I needed to survive today.
“That’s what I did. I tried to be focused all the time, tried to get through. I wish him all the best for the season. For me personally, I’m happy to be through to the second round. I did a good job today. Straight sets, that’s what I needed."