Rafael Nadal is a crowd-puller. The top-seeded player, who will start his Australian Open campaign against fellow left-hander Jack Draper on Monday, walked out for his first practice session in-front of a jam-packed crowd outside the arena.
Nadal has lost six of his past seven matches dating to last season, including an 0-2 mark so far this year. Nadal is the defending champion in Australia.
This man can draw a crowd 👀@rafaelnadal • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/YBdztsLuNJ
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 15, 2023
Nadal, of course, is the defending champion at Melbourne Park — thanks to a comeback from two sets down in last year’s final, which he called “one of the most emotional victories of my tennis career” — but he also is mired in about as bad a stretch as he’s ever experienced: 0-2 so far in 2023 and having won just one of his past seven matches dating to the end of last season.
Asked at a pre-tournament news conference Saturday whether he feels vulnerable, Nadal did not try to hide a thing.
“Yeah. Without a doubt,” replied the 36-year-old from Spain, whose 2022 was littered with health concerns that included chronic pain in his left foot, damaged rib cartilage and a torn abdominal muscle. “I have been losing more than usual. … I need to live with it and just fight for the victories.”
Looking ahead to his upcoming encounter in Rod Laver Arena against Jack Draper, a fellow left-hander who is a 21-year-old from England ranked 40th, Nadal said: “I think I’m prepared to play well. We’ll see Monday if I’m prepared to win.”
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