Rafael Nadal gets warning from Novak Djokovic ahead of Australian Open

Rafael Nadal discusses Australian Open victory in January

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Novak Djokovic has sounded an early warning to the likes of defending Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal by claiming he’s returned to where he plays his “best tennis.” After the tempestuous visa saga that saw him deported out of the country a day before the Grand Slam event began last year, the Serbian has been cleared to play this time around.

In his absence in 2022, it was Nadal who prevailed, coming from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in an epic final. The Spaniard’s victory carried extra significance given that prior to the final, he, Djokovic, and the now retired Roger Federer were all level on a record equalling 20 Grand Slam wins.

But it’s world No 5 Djokovic who arguably represents the biggest threat to his crown this month, having enjoyed a prolific record down under. He’s won the title nine times at Melbourne Park, and would have been gunning for a fourth successive win last year. 

Djokovic is currently using the Adelaide International to prepare, enjoying a straight sets win over Constant Lestienne on Tuesday. And after that match, he sent an ominous message to Nadal and co about his bid for Australian Open No 10.

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“I can say it was different coming into Australia this year than any other year, certainly because of the events 12 months ago,” Djokovic said. “But at the same time – 12 months is quite a long time as well. Already it’s behind me, I’ve moved on, I’m looking forward to (what is to) come because I always play very well and probably my best tennis throughout my career (has been) on Australian soil.

“I’m glad to be back in Australia. Thank you all for coming out today. Thank you for giving me the welcome that I could only wish for. Over the years, Australia has been the place where I’ve played my best tennis, without a doubt.”

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On the contrary, Nadal has endured a difficult time preparing for this title defence. He represented Spain in the Sydney leg of the United Cup, but was beaten by Britain’s Cameron Norrie and Australia’s Alex De Minaur.

After the Norrie defeat, he hit out at journalists asking him about retirement, saying: “I lost my match. That’s it, no? Every time I come to a press conference it seems that I have to retire. So you are very interested on my retirement.

“I mean, that, for the moment, isn’t the case. When the day arrives, I’m going to let you know, guys. Don’t keep going (on) with the retirement, because I’m here to keep playing tennis.”

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