MELBOURNE, Australia ( Associated Press) – Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic own the two biggest Grand Slam trophy hauls in the history of men’s professional tennis. They are two of the most promising current men in their sport; No one goes to him. They are both almost 35 years old and do not know how long they will stay at the top of tennis.
Equally for all these rivals, Nadal and Djokovic enter the Australian Open starting on Monday in odd circumstances.
Of course, Nadal is the defending champion at Melbourne Park – thanks to coming back from two sets down in last year’s final for what he called “one of the most emotional wins of his career”. But he comes in with a bad streak: 0-2 so far in 2023 and winning only one of his last seven starts last season.
While Djokovic returned to Australia last year after being banned for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19, he started his season with the prep title in Adelaide and won 30 of his last 31 tournaments last season.
In Saturday’s pre-tournament press conference, Nadal was asked if he felt insecure and made no attempt to hide anything.
“Yes, without a doubt,” answered the 36-year-old Spaniard, whose 2022 was plagued by health problems including chronic pain, rib cartilage damage and a torn abdominal muscle. “I’m losing more than usual… I have to live with it and fight to win.”
Before facing 21-year-old left-handed British tennis player Jack Draper, who is ranked 40th in the world, at Rod Laver Arena, Nadal assured: “I think I am well prepared. We will see on Monday whether Am I ready to win?”
Nadal’s assessment of Djokovic’s form was: “He finished well last year and started well this year.”
Of course he did. Nothing matters more to Djokovic than winning another Grand Slam title. Winning his 10th Australian Open championship in two weeks will see the 35-year-old Serb win 22 major titles and equal Nadal (both will surpass the now-retired Rafael Nadal’s 20 titles).
“I mean, that’s why I keep playing professional tennis, (competitive) tennis, because I want to be the best. I want to win the biggest tournaments in the world. It’s no secret,” Roberto Carballes at Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday Djokovic said before facing Baena (75).
“There is nothing bigger than this. You have four Slams that are historically the biggest events in our sport.”