Rafael Nadal: Australian Open shall be nice ‘with or with out’ Novak Djokovic

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal‘s first Grand Slam match in additional than seven months is on the horizon. He is getting back from a painful left foot downside that restricted him to at least one event over the past half of final season, and he received COVID-19 in December.

Plenty to speak about, proper? This is, in spite of everything, the proprietor of 20 main championships and one of the important figures within the historical past of tennis. His mere presence at an Australian Open pre-tournament information convention Saturday was newsworthy — or, somewhat, would have been on just about every other event.

The run-up to this Australian Open has been, and continues to be, all about Novak Djokovic and his hopes of defending the title at a vaccination-required competitors whereas not being vaccinated towards the coronavirus. Nadal’s phrases and physique language spoke for a lot of on the earth of tennis when he shrugged his shoulders, exhaled and uttered this about his long-time rival’s will-he-play-or-won’t-he saga: “Honestly, I’m a little bit tired of the situation.”

“The Australian Open is much more important than any player,” Nadal mentioned. “If he’s playing, finally, OK. If he’s not playing, the Australian Open will be a great Australian Open, with or without him. That’s my point of view.”

Unlike Djokovic, Nadal has gotten his pictures. As have a complete of 97 of the Top 100 within the ATP rankings and 96 of the Top 100 within the WTA rankings.

“All this could have been avoided, like we’ve all done, by getting vaccinated, doing all the things we had to do to come here in Australia,” mentioned two-time main champion Garbine Muguruza, a 28-year-old from Spain who’s seeded No. 3 within the girls’s bracket. “Everybody knew very clearly the rules. You just have to follow them and that’s it. I don’t think it’s that difficult.”

For now, the No. 1-seeded Djokovic is scheduled to play Monday on Day 1 of the 12 months’s first main event, the place each he and Nadal may declare a twenty first Grand Slam trophy to interrupt the boys’s mark they at the moment share with Roger Federer.

Before that, although, Djokovic — and, it appears, everybody else with any curiosity in any respect in tennis or the newest developments associated indirectly to the pandemic — will wait to see what occurs in a courtroom listening to Sunday on his attraction of a second revocation of his visa by the Australian authorities.

He might be deported.

“I won’t lie: It has been pretty much on every news outlet the last couple of weeks. It has received a lot of attention. A lot of people are obviously talking about it,” mentioned Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 23-year-old from Greece who’s seeded No. 4 at Melbourne Park and was the runner-up to Djokovic finally 12 months’s French Open. “That’s why I’m here to talk about tennis. … Not enough tennis has been talked about in the last couple of weeks, which is a shame.”

Usually, the Australian Open — often known as the “Happy Slam” — serves as a type of celebratory launch of a brand new tennis season.

Players are coming off an opportunity to relaxation, recharge and put together in the course of the offseason. They have a clear, or principally clear, slate, relying on whether or not they performed any tune-up matches. Some present up with wrinkles of their enjoying type. Some arrive with a brand new coach, desperate to see how the connection may work out.

“It feels like it’s taking away from us competitors who just want to start. We’re just eager to go out and compete. The Australian Open is always an incredible event, my home Slam, my favorite tournament,” mentioned No. 32-seeded Alex de Minaur, a 22-year-old Australian. “At the end of the day, tennis is an individual sport, and we’ve all been here in Australia for a while, getting ready for this tournament. We all just want to get on with our own stuff.”

Story traces and areas of intrigue are typically plentiful in Melbourne. As it’s, this time was destined to be a bit completely different, given the noteworthy gamers who’re absent for one motive or one other, together with Federer, Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

But Nadal’s return to Slam motion for the primary time since a semifinal loss to Djokovic in Paris in June is an enormous deal.

So, too, is defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka‘s arrival with what she says is a contemporary outlook after taking two psychological well being breaks in 2021, together with one which ended her season in September.

Given Osaka’s frank revelations about melancholy and anxiousness, it was significant Saturday when she broke right into a full-on grin and joked round with reporters.

Nadal mentioned he is thrilled to be again on tour. He talked about his “positive attitude” and “working spirit.”

Only when the subject was about Djokovic did Nadal sound lower than excited.

“I wish him all the best. I really respect him,” Nadal mentioned about somebody he has performed a tour-record 58 occasions relationship to 2006, “even if I [do] not agree with a lot of things that he did the last couple of weeks.”


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