MELBOURNE: Rafael Nadal says he’s working ‘big-time’ to get back to his best after an injury-blighted season, but admits to being a long shot at the Australian Open.
The 14-time grand slam winner, seeded three at Melbourne Park, missed the end of last year due to appendicitis and has also struggled with ongoing back and wrist injuries.
“I don’t consider myself one of the favorites here,” he said. “Last year, yes. This year is a different story. I would be lying if I say I feel that I am ready to win today. I don’t feel myself ready to win the tournament here today.”
Federer happy with his form
Roger Federer said he was hitting some of the best form of his life in an ominous warning as the Swiss great guns for an 18th grand slam title.
The four-time Australian Open champion shows no signs of slowing down despite approaching his 34th birthday this year, winning 73 matches and five titles in 2014.
“I think I’m serving with more strength and consistency than I ever have. That’s my opinion. I definitely think the [new] racquet has helped me with that as well, a little bit.”
Murray confident despite tough draw
Andy Murray faces a horror draw at the Australian Open, needing to overcome Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to make the final, but the British number one says he is feeling good about his game.
“Obviously it’s a very tough draw,” said Murray. “But often in these events, you know, there are upsets. And then you just have to wait and see who you’re playing in each round because it doesn’t always work out as simply as that.
“It will be interesting to see how it goes. But definitely with the names mentioned, it’s very challenging.”
Serena issues Aussie Open challenge
World number one Serena Williams declared that none of her rivals could match her desire to win the Australian Open, and if they wanted the title, they would have to fight her for it.
The 18-time Grand Slam champion won the last of her five Australian crowns in 2010 and expressed frustration that a sixth has eluded her for so long.
“I’ve been going for number six for several years now — it would be really special for me, I’d be really happy,” said Serena “I want it, I think, more than anyone else here. That doesn’t mean I’m going to get it so I’ll have to fight hard.”
Sharapova eyes top spot
World number two Maria Sharapova said she was seeking to regain the game’s top ranking by winning the Australian Open.
The 27-year-old, who won the third of her five Grand Slams at Melbourne Park in 2008, said she was one of the players to beat at this year’s tournament after a strong 2014 season when she won the French Open.
“I’m sure I’m one of them, I mean I’m number two in the world — I had a great season last year winning a Grand Slam,” she said.