20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will be back in a Grand Slam event for the first time since his semi-final exit from the 2021 French Open. The Spaniard had injured his foot during the tournament and had to miss out on playing the 2021 Wimbledon Championships. While he played two more matches on the Tour but could not play the 2021 US Open as the injury got worse.
The Spaniard has however made the best possible preparation for the Slam as he will enter the Melbourne Park after winning the Tour event in Melbourne, his 89th career title. He opted to miss the second week of the Tour in order to remain fresh and fit for the Grand Slam that will begin from 17th January.
With all the members of the Big-3 club tied on 20 Grand Slam titles, the race to 21st is heated immensely. With Roger Federer already out for nearly the first half of the season and Novak Djokovic‘s troubles continuing over his participation in the tournament, Nadal stands a great chance to become the first to 21st Slams.
While there have been questions raised whether Nadal is actually the favourite given he last won the Slam back in 2009 and has since lost 4 finals, former World No. 1 and 2-time Australian Open champion Boris Becker does not think that Nadal can be ruled out as a contender for the title.
“As long as Rafael Nadal plays tennis and gets the chance, he is never a dark horse for me, but always one of the tournament favourites. I think that in the back of his mind he just wants to win [the French Open] again. But he has to play tournaments first, preferably a Grand Slam. He has no pressure, nobody expects anything from him.
“The preparation was bad because of his Corona illness [but] I don’t know anyone in the main draw who would like to play Nadal in the first or second round. That is his nimbus, he is one of the ultimate superstars. And again, he can also get [his 21st career win at a Grand Slam tournament],” said Becker in Eurosport Germany’s Das Gelbe vom Ball podcast.
Rafael Nadal to start his 2022 Australian Open campaign against Marcos Giron
Becker also emphasised that Nadal continues to play because he believes he can actually win the title. “I think that’s another reason why he’s playing in Melbourne. These top stars who have won so much, they wouldn’t be playing if they didn’t think they had a chance,” added Becker during the podcast.