Rafael Nadal Australian Open Entry in Doubt
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The 32-year-old Spaniard played only nine tournaments in 2018 due to a string of ailments. Now, he has had his Brisbane preparation disrupted by ankle surgery in November.
The 17-time grand slam champion was expected to play his opening Brisbane clash on Thursday. It would have been his first ATP tournament match since pulling out of the US Open semi- finals in September with an ongoing knee complaint.
“It’s an important risk to not have the chance to play in Melbourne,” Nadal said in a press conference.
“And if I don’t play, the evolution of the thing is going very well. I am practicing and I feel like I can give a good level of tennis but I can’t do my 100 per cent.
“So I don’t play here and I probably secure that I’m going to be 100 per cent for Melbourne. Everybody’s telling me that it’s not a good idea to increase the possibility to convert the strain into a bigger problem.”
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 2, 2019
The focus on the Grand Slams is important for Nadal as he is shared his obsession with winning tournaments is still burning strong.
Despite injuries including a hip injury that forced him out of the Australian Open in the quarters and a knee which prematurely ended his US Open campaign at the semi-finals, Nadal felt what he showed when he eventually got on court last season gave him confidence that he could add to his 17 Grand Slams when fit this year.
“It was a great level of tennis every time that I was on court,” he said. “So that’s great news. I enjoyed it a lot.
“I achieved things that were amazing for me.
“It was a tough year in terms of injuries. (But) in terms of tennis level, I enjoyed every time I had the chance to be on court so it was a great year.”
Remarkably, the Spaniard won five of the nine tournaments he entered and finished 2018 with a 45-4 win-loss record to narrowly miss the top men’s ranking.
Not that he was looking at the world standings that much these days. Asked if he wanted to reclaim No.1, Rafael Nadal said: “It’s not my goal.
“I want to keep fighting for the things that really make me feel alive, you know, for the things that motivate me.
“I prefer to be No. 1 than be No.2, and I prefer to be No. 2 than No. 5 — that’s obvious.
“But my main goal is to stay healthy, stay happy and try to play as long as possible.”
Despite injuries, Nadal rejected the notion his body was breaking down and insisted his best tennis still lay ahead.
“Injuries sometimes just happen,” he said.
“I really believe that I have a lot of tennis to play in my career, and I really feel that my body is not going worse every year.”
Whether Rafa turns up at the Australian Open in fighting condition remains to be seen. But even if he does, the lack of match practice might only make the tournament more difficult for him.