Rafael Nadal concerns shot down with Australian Open defence on the line – EXCLUSIVE | Tennis | Sport

Alex Corretja has shut down claims that Rafael Nadal could be in trouble at the Australian Open after winning just one match in the space of four months as injury derailed the end of his 2022 season and he lost his first two matches of the year. The likes of Tim Henman believe the top seed in Melbourne could be beaten by his first round opponent Jack Draper but the retired former world No 2 has hit back and told fans to “expect the best” from Nadal instead.

Nadal remains a question mark ahead of his Australian Open title defence following his recent lack of match wins. The world No 2 played just four tournaments for the rest of the 2022 season after Wimbledon as a result of injury, going 4-5 in wins and losses before suffering the worst start to a season of his career this year by losing his first two matches.

After receiving a tough draw in Melbourne with world No 40 Draper in the opening round, it has left some questioning whether the 36-year-old has enough recent match wins under his belt to remain safe in the tournament but his fellow Spaniard Alex Corretja has now shut down claims that Nadal won’t be ready to defend his title and gave Express Sport a confident prediction that he would be at his top level in time for his first match on Monday.

“Well, with Rafa you always can expect the best because he’s been surprising us already so many times,” the former world No 2 said, speaking ahead of the Australian Open, which is live and exclusive on discovery+ and Eurosport. While there have been fears over Nadal’s defeats to Cameron Norrie and Alex de Minaur, Corretja instead thought it was positive that the 22-time Major winner had some long battles under his belt.

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He added: “I think the end of the season wasn’t as good as he expected of course but he needed to play some matches, he played some exhibitions and now he started the season playing the United Cup. And even if he didn’t win those matches I think it was good for him to play long matches because if you don’t play too many matches before, it is nice to get the rhythm.”

The 17-time title winner also thought that Nadal would be able to play himself into form in Melbourne but admitted that there were a number of other factors his performances would depend on. “I’m sure as the tournament will go on, he might feel better and it also depends on the draw to see who he faces and if he plays day session, night session, it makes a lot of difference in the Australian Open,” Corretja continued.

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“But I think Rafa, you always have to count on him because he proved already that when we think that he is not ready, he is. So of course he needs to make a big effort to get in the best shape he can but I don’t have any doubt that he will be ready for the Open, yes.”

Corretja’s words come as Tim Henman told Express Sport that he thought Draper would have a good chance to beat Nadal as long as he believed in himself. “It will be a great opportunity, an amazing experience and I think if he believes that he can beat Rafa, he’s got a good chance,” he said, also claiming that he thought the Spaniard had been “struggling” after being courtside for Norrie’s victory over the world No 2.

Watch every match from the Australian Open live and exclusive on discovery+ and Eurosport.