News ID: 264508
Published: 0404 GMT January 18, 2020

Nadal surprised to still be on top of the game

Nadal surprised to still be on top of the game

Australian Open top seed Rafa Nadal entered his third decade as a professional ranked No. 1 in the world and the 33-year-old Spaniard said he is surprised to be at the summit of the men’s game given his long and varied history of injuries.

Enjoying a rare period of full fitness, Nadal is bidding for his second title in his 15th appearance at Melbourne Park, as well as the added carrot of matching Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 Grand Slam titles, Reuters reported.

In the 11 years since his 2009 triumph in Melbourne, Nadal has battled back from a litany of serious injuries, defying predictions that his taxing, all-action game might cut his career short.

He now has a chance to hold three out of the four Grand Slam titles after winning the French and US Opens last year.

“Well, I can’t say I have been lucky with injuries, because I have not,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday.

“But there is no secret. There is only passion, about love for the game, and about being able to stay positive in the tough moments.

“It’s true that I went through some tough situations during all my career. But I was able to always, with probably the positive attitude and with the right people around, to find a way to keep going.

“(It’s) something that is difficult to imagine for me because of my style of game, as a lot of people said, my career should be little bit shorter.

“But here we are. (I’m) happy for that. Even for me is a big surprise to be where I am at my age.”

Nadal, the only player to claim the world number one spot in three decades, plays unseeded Bolivian Hugo Dellien in the first round on Tuesday and has a reasonably kind draw.

There is a potential fourth round matchup against 16th seed Karen Khachanov or local firebrand Nick Kyrgios, who has won three of his seven Tour matches against the Spaniard.

The pair have never been friends, with Nadal accusing him of “lacking respect for the public, the opponent and himself” after being beaten by the Australian at the Mexican Open last year.

Kyrgios in turn labeled Nadal “super salty” and a bad loser.

Nadal shrugged when asked about Kyrgios’s chances at his home Grand Slam.

“Everybody knows who is Kyrgios. Everybody knows how big is his talent, how good he is when he wants to play at his best, when he’s able to play at his best.

“His chances are always there.”


Tricky test


Federer is bidding for a third title in four years at Melbourne Park and a record-extending 21st Grand Slam trophy but having not played competitive tennis since November the Swiss is keeping a lid on expectations.

Unlike his main rivals, Federer, who won his last Grand Slam in 2018 at Melbourne Park, opted out of the inaugural ATP Cup to spend more time with his family before launching his 22nd season on Tour.

His opening round opponent on Monday — American world number 81 Steve Johnson — won a challenger tournament in nearby Bendigo and reached the quarterfinals in the Canberra challenger last week.

“Look, it’s exactly the tricky situation right now, playing somebody who has just played a lot this week. He’s ready to go. He’s match-ready and I’m not,” Federer said in a pre-tournament news conference on Saturday.

Canadian world number 103 Brayden Schnur labelled Federer and Nadal “selfish” for not taking a vocal stand for the lower-profile players who faced a difficult time this week during qualifiers due to the bushfire smoke.

“I don’t think I can do more than what I did,” Federer said. “I’m on the council. I’ve been on the tour for so long. I came through the lower ranks, the juniors.

“At the end of the day we all care for one another. We cross paths in the locker room. I understand some frustration always because this tour, this calendar, this schedule, whatever it may be, is never perfect.”





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