Rafael Nadal offered a glimpse as to why he is considered as one of the favourites to win this month’s Australian Open before taking to the court at the United Cup on Monday. The Spaniard is representing his country at the team event in Sydney in order to ramp up his preparations for the first Grand Slam of the new year, which he managed to win outright at the last time of asking.
Nadal suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Cameron Norrie in his first United Cup match on Saturday but the result did not appear to shake his mental outlook ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with Alex de Minaur at the same tournament. The 36-year-old looked as focused as ever while entering the court as he skipped down the tunnel practicing his forehand and backhand in stark contrast to the other players behind him, who simply walked calmly into the arena.
His fired-up approach to the match suggests that he is wholly determined to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to lead Spain to United Cup glory before the Australian Open gets underway later this month. Nadal has long been hailed for having the mentality of a true champion, which will stand him in good stead to retain his title in Melbourne after clinching the honours for the second time in 2022.
The Spanish legend went on to lose against De Minaur, though, with the latter coming back from a set down to register a famous win despite Nadal being two points away from victory at one late stage in the final set. It remains to be seen whether two defeats at the United Cup will go on to derail Nadal’s preparations for the Australian Open, with rumours suggesting that it may be his last due to the injuries that have plagued his efforts on the court over the last few years.
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Nadal was typically defiant when quizzed on the topic of his eventual retirement last week, though, telling reporters: “I lost my match. That’s it, no? Every time I come to a press conference it seems that I have to retire.
“So you are very interested on my retirement. I mean, that, for the moment, isn’t the case. When the day arrives, I’m going to let you know, guys. Don’t keep going [on] with the retirement, because I’m here to keep playing tennis.
“As a professional you never know. Hopefully not… [I’m] not thinking about it being my last time here. If that’s the last time, let’s try to enjoy as much as possible. Let’s try to create something special, no?”
Nadal has remained staunchly non-committal when asked about the prospect of calling it a day in recent months and previously told Marca: “I don’t visualise it for a simple fact, because I’m not one to try to guess, predict or prepare the future, because things change very quickly, right?
“I know that moment is closer than last year, without a doubt, and two years ago. That is pure logic. But in the end it is something that when it has to happen, it will happen. I would like it to be on a tennis court, yes.”
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