Nadal excited about Australian Open title defence after ending season on a high

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Nadal excited about Australian Open title defence after ending season on a high
Nadal ended his season on a high note
Nadal ended his season on a high note
Reuters
Rafael Nadal (36) ended his season on a high on Thursday after a difficult few months and said he was excited about the prospect of defending his Australian Open crown in January.

The Spaniard produced some vintage tennis to beat Casper Ruud 7-5 7-5 in his final group match at the ATP Finals and while it came too late to save him, he was happy with his level.

Nadal had looked a little rusty against Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime in his previous matches at the Turin year-ender, but was too good for Norwegian Ruud as he snapped a four-match losing sequence.

Victory means Nadal is likely to end the year ranked number two but after injury worries and hardly playing since the U.S. Open he was just happy to be firing on all cylinders again.

"I can't talk for everyone, but in my case, if I am in the rhythm of competition, winning matches, in a good confidence, normally I don't have a big problem to be competitive in every single court or surface," Nadal told reporters.

"Australia's going to be a challenge, of course, but it's the beginning of the season. Hard court, I played well plenty of times there, even if I only won twice."

Nadal, who recently became a father for the first time, was heading back to his Mallorca home but said he would be playing exhibitions in south America to tune his game.

He would then arrive early in Australia to prepare for his challenge for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title.

"Just excited to going to be there. If nothing goes wrong, I'm going to be there early. That's what I need," he said.

"Even if it's an effort for me and sacrifice to go very early from home, I think that's what I need to do after what happened the last five months.

"Not only because of the preparation for Australia, but because of preparation for myself for the rest of the season."

Nadal will have to get past nine-time champion Novak Djokovic if he is to win again in Melbourne, after the Serb confirmed he has a visa and will be there.

"That's the best news possible, especially knowing that now the virus is more under control, around the world," Nadal said.

"Happy for him. Happy for the tournament. Happy for the fans. That's it."

Djokovic was deported before this year's Australian Open after failing to have a COVID-19 vaccination.