DOHA: Rafael Nadal sounded relieved on Sunday to be flying to Australia in better condition than he might have expected for the first Grand Slam event of the year and one that he described as ‘strange’.
A fine two-hour final at the Qatar Open, in which the world number one beat Gael Monfils 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, dragged some of Nadal’s best tennis from him and gave him a physical and psychological test he certainly needed.
It will have given him confidence that he is in good enough shape to challenge in a week’s time for a major title he has not won for five years.
“It’s difficult because the Australian Open is very early,” he said, after sealing his 61st career title. “It would be better to play it a bit later.”
“It can be only the second tournament (of the year) that you are competing in, and it’s one of the most important, so it’s a bit strange.
“But it’s strange every year. I hope to have a good week’s preparation in Melbourne and try to adapt.”
Nadal nevertheless reckoned that what he most probably will have to adapt to is good for his style of play – the Melbourne heat makes the balls quicker, and it also makes them bounce more, both characteristics which he believes suit him.
The Spaniard believes, however, that there are positives and negatives of competing in Doha rather than travelling straight to Australia to practise or to play a tournament there.
The final with Monfils enhanced the positives, and still leaves him, he believes, with enough time to acclimatise after the long journey. The stakes will be high though, but Nadal has further reasons for optimism.
World number two Novak Djokovic is the Australian Open titleholder, and so has a lot of ranking points to defend. Nadal, by contrast, missed Melbourne last year because of his troublesome injured knees and has no points to defend.
Tsonga primed for Australian Open after Hopman win
Powerful Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will head into the Australian Open full of confidence as he chases his maiden Grand Slam win after leading his country to their first Hopman Cup triumph.
Tsonga, who has slipped to 10th in the rankings after an injury-plagued 2013, teamed up with Alize Cornet to win the title, beating the Polish pair of Agnieszka Radwanska and Grzegorz Panfil in Saturday’s final in Perth.
Tsonga, once ranked number five in the world, said he was well-placed for a serious tilt at the Australian Open.
“I have had a good preparation and the Hopman Cup is part of it,” he said. “Even while I have been playing matches here I have continued to work.
“I was bit tired for my singles (in the final) but now I have seven days to recover and to be ready for the Australian Open.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2014.
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