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Journal in Australia: Champion a year ago, Nadal now feels vulnerable

Melbourne, Australia | He holds the record for major trophies, is the defending champion in Australia and has more than 20 years of professional tennis in his body, but Rafael Nadal was “vulnerable” when he appeared before reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.

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While outside, employees sprayed traditional “Children’s Day” participants with water cannons to forget the 36-degree environment, in a large conference room that looked like a movie theater, and admitted that he was one of the greatest champions in history. Going through some of the toughest moments of his career on the pitch.

“Yes definitely [que je me sens vulnérable]“He beat the favorite (on paper) in this Australian Open. “Without a doubt. I lost more than usual, but that’s part of the game.

Untouchable earlier last year, a winner in Australia and his beloved land of Roland-Carros, Nadal was unrecognizable after an abdominal muscle injury that forced him to withdraw ahead of the Wimbledon semi-finals.

Five small victories

To say that “Rafa” has lost “more than usual” in recent months is an understatement. Since August, the 36-year-old legend, who has 22 Grand Slam titles, has won just five matches in as many tournaments.

However, the treatment he is receiving for his left foot to get rid of a degenerative disease that has plagued him since the start of his career seems to be paying off.

No, he said Saturday, his son — also known as Rafael — born in October turned his game upside down, even if it required, initially, “a lot of changes.”

Indeed, Nadal refuses to use these injuries last year as an excuse for his recent performances. “Of course we can talk about everything that happened, the situations I had to deal with. But the truth is that I’m losing more than usual,” he said.

An unfortunate draw

The good news for the Spaniard is that he is feeling good in training. The bad news is that he now has to find “speed” during matches.

In Melbourne, that goal may be harder to achieve, as “Rafa” faces talented Briton Jack Draper, 40, on Monday (Sunday at approximately 10:30 p.m. EST).e The world at 21.

It was Draper who pointed the exit door to Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round of the United States Open last September.

Nadal recognizes that, and the draw doesn’t reward him. “For a better seed, [Draper] He noted that he was probably one of the toughest opponents to face in the first round. He is young [21 ans]Powerful, he climbs the ranks very, very quickly.

“I’m here to give myself a chance,” he added. I know he will play well. He may have a great career ahead of him. ”

Vulnerable, but happy

A sequel — if there is a sequel — doesn’t seem simple. Among his potential opponents in the following rounds are Brandon Nakashima, winner of last year’s ATP “Next Generation” final, Francis Tiafoe, his crush in New York, third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, or sixth-ranked Auger-Aliassime in Australia.

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But while his chances of retaining his title look slim, Nadal doesn’t seem too worried. If he says he’s vulnerable right now, he’s happy too.

“I have good training. What I need is to chain the hits. I hope that happens here. If not, I will continue to work to get it done as soon as possible.

“No doubt I can lose on Monday, but it won’t be the end of the world. It will be a tough time, no doubt. But I will accept it,” he said.