Nadal remaining upbeat despite Australian Open disruption

The 20-time Grand Slam champion is doing everything in his powers to recover from back muscle issues ahead of his opening match on Tuesday.

Rafael Nadal Australian Open 2021©Tennis Australia / Mark Peterson
 - Alex Sharp

“I am not a big fan of finding excuses or reasons about why this other thing is happening. When things happen and you need to find a way to go through.”

The archetypical battling statement from Rafael Nadal.

The World No.2 has had his fair share of injuries throughout his magnificent career and another threatens his Australian Open campaign.

The Spaniard was forced to watch from the sidelines during the ATP Cup last week due to a stiff lower back, which has been an issue for the 34-year-old since practice in Adelaide last month. 

It has clearly disrupted his preparations at Melbourne Park, raising question marks over Nadal’s charge to achieving a men’s record 21st major. 

 “I don't think about not playing. The thing is about in which conditions I’m going to start the tournament,” declared the second seed on Sunday. “I am practising again. I did a lot of things to recover, is not serious, but the muscle is still tight, so is difficult to play with freedom of movements today.

“The whole positive feelings that I had, now disappeared a little bit, because I was not able to practice the right way the last week and a half. 

“We are doing everything. My physio is here, the doctors here, everybody is helping me in all possible ways.”

Without ‘freedom of movement,’ the Grand Slam gauntlet is an impossible task. 

"Stay positive"

In terms of the draw, the 2009 champion takes on 56th-ranked Serbian Laslo Djere on Tuesday, ahead of a potentially troublesome third round against Sunday’s Murray River Open champion Dan Evans.

Familiar foe Fabio Fognini (fourth round) and either of Russia’s ATP Cup champions Andrey Rublev or Daniil Medvedev (quarter-finals) might be looking too far ahead. For now, Nadal is fully focused on his opening encounter, desperately seeking more time to recover. 

Is not a drama. These kind of things can happen. Happened to me in the past,” said the Spaniard hoping to harness all his experience in adversity, who last month passed 800 consecutive weeks in the Top 10. 

“The only thing that I can do is stay positive, work on the recover, do all the things that I can, then hope the situation will be improving. Is not an important injury but is a thing that stays here for a lot of days. Of course, it worries me a little bit.”

Back in October the world No.2 tied his close friend Roger Federer on top of the men’s Roll of Honour on 20 Grand Slams. 

Could Nadal break clear at Melbourne Park?

For now, he has far more pressing issues ahead of his Tuesday start. 

"Health is priority"

“Let's see how the situation evolves. Health is priority,” added the Spaniard, when asked about his hopes and expectations post Melbourne. 

“Today we can't forget that. In my personal opinion, first of all, the world needs to stay as safe as possible today. We need to be very responsible about all the decisions that we going to make, like organisation, like in sport. 

“For me personally, my goal of course is always the same, no? Just try to play competitive every single match I going to play.”

Let’s hope Nadal can be competitive in the Australian Open this fortnight.