His poor start to the season is not worrying defending champion Rafael Nadal ahead of the start of the Australian Open.

“Indeed, I haven’t been able to play much tennis in the last few months and I lost two matches in Sydney at the start of the season, but I’m honestly not unhappy with the preparation,” the Spanish superstar, 36, said in Melbourne on Tuesday, less than a week before the start of the season’s first Grand Slam tournament, according to Australian newspaper The Age. “I have to win matches for sure. But the preparation is going pretty well. I’m practising a lot and I think I’m in a good shape.”

The world number two had failed to kick off 2023 with two defeats at the new United Cup to Australia’s Alex de Minaur and Britain’s Cameron Norrie. Nadal, who also struggled with injuries in 2022, has won just one match since his round of 16 exits at the US Open in early September.

Top seed after Alcaraz’s cancellation

The Australian Open in Melbourne begins on Monday. Nadal is the top seed due to the cancellation of his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz due to injury, but his Serbian rival Novak Djokovic is considered the top favourite. Nadal started last year’s Australian Open with doubts due to his foot problem and a preceding coronavirus infection and then celebrated the title impressively.