Nadal ‘has energy in pocket’ as he aims to capitalize on Djokovic absence
Rafael Nadal's chances of winning this year's Australian Open, and surpassing Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in all-time Grand Slam triumphs, are being talked up after his latest impressive win.
In a battle that went past midnight in Melbourne, the 35-year-old beat Russian hopeful Karen Khachanov 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 1-6 in what he called his "best match" since making a comeback from a left foot injury.
"It is a very special week for me, coming back," Nadal said on-court in his post-game interview. "Every single time I am able to play here is very special."
"Tonight I played against a great player and a good friend on [the] tour. It was my best match since I have come back without a doubt," he claimed.
"In the past year and a half I have been going through some very tough times," Nadal admitted.
"But for me nights like today mean everything, that's a lot of energy in my pocket to keep fighting, to keep going every single day," he said, hinting that he is pushing for the title.
"And all the effort that I put, well we put [in], my team, my family, to try to be back where I am today ... it means everything. I'm super happy."
"Thank you very much everybody for making it so special," he signed off, to a roaring crowd.
Where Nadal is today, then, is through to the last 16 of the competition while the media talks up his chances of becoming the second man after Novak Djokovic to win all four Grand Slams at least twice.
"What a player, what a performance, what a ... something else!" gushed The Guardian.
Really something seeing Rafael Nadal back and playing like this. Turns 36 in June and his foot injury could have finished his career. Not a bit of it. Looks awesome.— David Law (@DavidLawTennis) January 21, 2022
"Could this be Nadal’s year?" it was asked. "He looks incredibly together, incredibly focused, with everything operating at maximum level.
With Djokovic absent after being deported over his visa and vaccine row, and Federer also absent, going all the way Down Under for the first time since 2009 would also put him past the pair in the all-time Grand Slams wins rankings on 21 as his favorite French Open also looms next up in May.