‘Vulnerable’ Rafael Nadal readies excuses before Australian Open clash vs Brit Jack Draper | Tennis | Sport
Rafael Nadal has admitted he feels vulnerable before facing British No.3 Jack Draper in the opening round of the Australian Open on Monday. And the Spanish superstar, who is playing his first Grand Slam as a father, said defeat would not be “the end of the world”.
Top seed Nadal conjured the Miracle in Melbourne last year to win the title only two months after he feared his career was over due to a chronic foot injury. Now the 22-time Grand Slam winner is back on his worst streak of his career after losing six out of seven matches since the US Open, including to Cam Norrie at the recent United Cup.
By contrast, Draper arrives at a career-high ranking of world No.38 after reaching his second ATP semi-final at the Adelaide International 2. Nadal, 36, is traditionally a slow starter in tournaments and admitted Draper was “probably one of the toughest first rounds possible. Young, powerful, growing very, very fast on the ranking, playing well.”
And asked if he felt vulnerable in his current form, the Spaniard added: “Yeah, of course. Yeah, without a doubt. I have been losing more than usual, so that’s part of the business. “Just accept the situation. I think I am humble enough to accept that situation and just work with what I have today. I need to build again all this momentum. I need to build again this confidence with victories. But it’s true that I have been losing more than usual.
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“Of course, we can talk about things that happen last year, all the situations that I had faced. But the real thing is I have been losing more than usual. I need to live with it and just fight for the victories.
“From my experience, I can go here on Monday and lose without a doubt and not going to be the end of the world. I am going to be a tough moment, of course, but I am going to accept it. It doesn’t matter the result.” But Nadal, whose wife Xisca gave birth to their son Rafa in October, warned that he is not far away from rediscovering his form.
“I didn’t play that bad the first two matches of the year,” he said. “I lost against two great opponents and had very positive chances to win both matches. I don’t know what can happen on Monday, but my personal feeling, without a doubt, is better now than three weeks ago, in general terms.
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“My personal momentum is not bad, I tell you. I am good and happy. I’m practising well. Then I need to win a couple of matches. If that can happen here – I hope so. If I don’t, I am going to keep working to make that happen as soon as possible. I would love to arrive here with a couple of victories. That didn’t happen, so I need to accept that, I need to live with it.
“The rest of the parts of my game that I have been working with, I am quite happy and I feel ready in terms of trying to play very good tennis on Monday. I still hope that I can play a good Australian Open. But you don’t know what can happen. The first round is going to be an important one against a very tough opponent.
“He is a big challenge for me at the beginning to start the tournament. Let’s see. I’m here to just give myself a chance. I know he’s playing well. He has a lot of positive things, and probably a great career in front of him. I hope to be ready to fight for that first round and let’s see what can happen.”