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Rafael Nadal: It’s good for tennis

Updated on: 29 December,2022 08:58 AM IST  |  Sydney

World No.2 Spaniard Rafael Nadal considers Novak Djokovic’s presence in Oz positive for the sport, fans; ready for Serb challenge Down Under

Rafael Nadal: It’s good for tennis

Rafael Nadal during a practice session ahead of the United Cup at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney yesterday. Pic/Getty Images

A “highly motivated” Rafael Nadal welcomed rival Novak Djokovic’s much-anticipated return to the Australian Open as “good for tennis” Wednesday, while brushing off suggestions this may be his last tilt at the season-opening Grand Slam. 

The 36-year-old Spanish great, who recently became a father, is beginning his new season at the United Cup, a new mixed-teams event starting Thursday in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. It will provide a warm-up for his defence of the Australian Open title next month at Melbourne Park, where he swept past Russian Daniil Medvedev to win this year in an epic five-setter.

Novak Djokovic warms up in Adelaide yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic warms up in Adelaide yesterday. Pic/Getty Images

That victory came after arch-rival and nine-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic was detained and deported ahead of the tournament after refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Australia has since lifted its requirement for visitors to show proof of vaccination against Covid. 

The Serb arrived back in the country on Tuesday for the first time since being turfed out. Nadal, who has a record men’s 22 Grand Slam titles to Djokovic’s 21, said he was happy to see his superstar rival back. “Novak is here, good for tennis, good for probably the fans,” the World No.2 said in Sydney. 

“Let’s see, no? Best players on court always win.” Fifth-ranked Djokovic will begin his quest for an incredible 10th title at Melbourne Park at the Adelaide International from Sunday. Nadal backed up his Australian Open win this year with a 14th French Open but struggled with injury after withdrawing from the Wimbledon semi-final with an abdominal tear in July.

Nick Kyrgios pulls out of United Cup

Nick Kyrgios stunned his teammates by pulling out of the United Cup on Wednesday on the eve of the tournament, soon after Rafael Nadal said the Australian had “all the weapons” to win a Grand Slam. The temperamental star withdrew ahead of the new mixed-teams event in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, depriving fans of a scheduled clash between him and the Spanish great. Instead, Alex de Minaur will face Nadal in a round-robin singles match.

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