Rafael Nadal sends upbeat message amid worrying form ahead of Australian Open

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Rafael Nadal sends upbeat message amid worrying form ahead of Australian Open
Rafael Nadal sends upbeat message amid worrying form ahead of Australian Open

Back-to-back losses at the inaugural United Cup won't be enough to kill Rafael Nadal 's spirit ahead of his Australian Open title defence.

The world No. 2 failed to Spain to victory in Sydney as they fell to Great Britain and Australia. Nadal might have spared his nation's blushes but instead started 2023 in defeat to Cameron Norrie and Alex de Minaur.

But the 36-year-old has backed himself to bounce back as he prepares to begin what could be his final Grand Slam cycle. Nadal returns to Melbourne as the reigning champion, and he highlighted the next fortnight as an opportunity to make strides before the first major of 2023 gets underway on January 16.

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“I have two weeks before the Australian Open start," the 22-time Grand Slam champion told reporters following his latest loss. "I can’t say that the situation is ideal, but at the same time, I can’t say that it’s very negative, because for moments I was playing good.

Novak Djokovic won Australian Open despite playing with major hamstring tear rridqqieqiqerinvNovak Djokovic won Australian Open despite playing with major hamstring tear

"I think that two matches is going to help me. I need to win couple of matches. But the level was not that bad. Putting in perspective that I arrived needing a little bit more time.”

Nadal will enter as the second seed in Melbourne and lines up on the opposite end to compatriot and current world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz. Novak Djokovic will make a much-anticipated return in search of a record-extending 10th Australian crown, hoping to draw back level with Nadal on 23 majors apiece.

Rafael Nadal sends upbeat message amid worrying form ahead of Australian OpenRafael Nadal doesn't appear worried about his Australian Open chances despite a lack of winning form (Mark Baker/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

The Serb was infamously deported from Melbourne last year, and it was Nadal who thrived in his absence as he came back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev. The veteran noted he 'needs to keep finding the rhythm' following consecutive losses in Sydney, having struggled with injury for much of the second half of 2022.

“Honestly, I am not too alarmed, too negative about what happened," added Nadal. "I think was a real chance to lose these kind of matches. Last year I lost two matches in Abu Dhabi, and that’s it. I take like I had my chance against two great players. Not able to convert it. That says that having an important room to improve, and I really believe that I can do it. I was very close to win against two great players.”

Nadal went a set up against both Norrie and De Minaur but succumbed to comeback results on both occasions, hinting fitness may be one factor that's currently lacking. The tennis icon has remained ambiguous amid a recent flurry of retirement talk, but Nadal continues to look no further than the next contest as he targets just his third Australian Open in 18 appearances.

Tom Sunderland

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