Sports, Tennis

Nadal ready for Djokovic challenge in Australia

Published : 28 Dec 2022 07:49 PM | Updated : 28 Dec 2022 07:49 PM
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A "highly motivated" Rafael Nadal welcomed rival Novak Djokovic's much-anticipated return to the Australian Open as "good for tennis" Wednesday, while brushing off suggestions this may be his last tilt at the season-opening Grand Slam.

The 36-year-old Spanish great, who recently became a father, is beginning his new season at the United Cup, a new mixed-teams event starting Thursday in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

It will provide a warm-up for his defence of the Australian Open title next month at Melbourne Park, where he swept past Russian Daniil Medvedev to win this year in an epic five-setter.

That victory came after arch-rival and nine-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic was detained and deported ahead of the tournament after refusing to get vaccinated for Covid-19. Australia has since lifted its requirement for visitors to show proof of vaccination against Covid. The Serb arrived back in the country on Tuesday for the first time since being turfed out.

Nadal, who has a record men's 22 Grand Slam titles to Djokovic's 21, said he was happy to see his superstar rival back.

"Novak is here, good for tennis, good for probably the fans," the world number two said in Sydney. "Let's see, no? Best players on court always win."

Fifth-ranked Djokovic will begin his quest for an incredible 10th title at Melbourne Park at the Adelaide International from Sunday.