With just a month left for the 2021 Australian Open, Rafael Nadal will eye a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title. Nadal equaled his arch-rival Roger Federer‘s record of winning 20 major championships last year at Roland Garros. However, the Australian Open has been a hard nut to crack for Nadal, where he has lost in all his four finals appearances over the last decade.
Recently, during a talk show on Tennis Channel with Paul Annacone and Lindsay Davenport, the duo talked about Nadal’s chances at the upcoming Australian Open. With Federer having withdrawn from the tournament, it leaves Nadal with a bit less to worry about.
Former tennis player, Annacone rated Federer and Novak Djokovic higher than Nadal on hard courts. But the American believes Nadal can win at Melbourne Park if he doesn’t play against the defending champion, Djokovic, in the final. Djokovic has beaten Nadal twice at the Australian Open final, first in an epic five-set thriller in 2012 and then a brutal straight-sets victory in 2019.
“I think very simply, Rafa is just a little bit worse on hardcourt than Novak in particular and Roger 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 Annacone.
Annacone, who has coached the likes of Federer and Pete Sampras in the past, gave his insight on why Nadal has won only one title at the Australian Open. The American believes lack of match practice is a reason Nadal has struggled at Melbourne Park. With the Australian Open being the first Grand Slam of the year, Nadal doesn’t get to play enough matches before the tournament.
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 Spaniard will compete at the ATP Cup, which starts just a week before the Australian Open. Last year, Nadal lost to Djokovic in the final of the inaugural ATP Cup. If Nadal wins at the Australian Open, he will become the first man in the Open Era to win each Grand Slam twice.