Rafa Nadal said losing two straight matches was hardly the ideal preparation for his Australian Open title defence, but the world number two believes he had no reason to feel alarmed ahead of the season’s first Grand Slam starting in two weeks.
Following an injury-ravaged 2022, Nadal lost his United Cup mixed team event opener to Briton Cameron Norrie last week and Spain’s 22-times Grand Slam champion then fell to Australian Alex de Minaur, who claimed a 3-6 6-1 7-5 win on Monday.
But Nadal, who needed pain-numbing injections on his foot en route to the French Open title and pulled out of his Wimbledon semi-final with an abdominal injury last year, said there were still positives despite his shaky start to the new season.
“Six hours on court almost. I need hours on court. I need battles like this,” Nadal told reporters. “I didn’t play much official matches the last six months, almost seven. Days like these two help.
“Of course with victories the process is faster, but I need to keep fighting. That’s it. For moments, I played a good level of tennis. Playing good with the backhand. Changing directions with the forehand.”
Nadal said he felt fine physically but needed to improve his speed and be more dynamic on the court to improve his confidence ahead of the Melbourne Park major.
“I have two weeks before the Australian Open starts. I can’t say the situation is ideal but at the same time I can’t say it’s negative, because for moments I was playing good,” Nadal said.
“I think that two matches is going to help me. I need to win a couple of matches. But the level wasn’t that bad. Putting in perspective that I arrived needing a little bit more time.
“I’m not too alarmed, too negative about what happened. I think it was a real chance to lose these kind of matches. Last year I lost two matches in Abu Dhabi, and that’s it.”