Rafael Nadal declared he feels “alive again” after overcoming an injury nightmare to reach the final of the Australian Open for a sixth time.
The Spaniard saw off Matteo Berrettini in four sets on Friday to leave him one victory away from a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title.
However, the 35-year-old is not getting preoccupied with the history books after spending the last six months wondering if he would ever play again, let alone compete for majors.
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Nadal had not played a competitive tournament since August prior to touching down in Melbourne. A chronic problem in his left foot ruled him out of Wimbledon, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and US Open. He admitted it got so bad that there were days he could only practise for 20 minutes.
When asked what was most surprising about his comeback by Eurosport expert Mats Wilander in The Cube, Nadal replied: “Mats, being honest, everything.
“[For] the people from outside it is difficult to believe. But the people who are next to me and watched my condition, lived my diary for the last six months, it’s difficult to understand I could play at this level right now.
“It’s difficult to explain honestly but I feel lucky, I’m playing with a great attitude and positive feelings. I feel a little bit alive again in terms of competitive spirit. I missed that feeling.
“I know the pressure is not much for me now, I never believed I would have the chance to be where I am today so I’m just enjoying every single moment and, of course, trying my best.”
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The match with Berrettini was played with the roof closed due to rain in Melbourne, presenting an extra challenge for Nadal, who thrives in a slower outdoor environment.
“Well, as everybody knows I am more an outdoor than indoor player,” Nadal, who will face Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final, told Jim Courier on court.
“But I think the stadium looks amazing like this closed and with an amazing crowd like this is even more noisy, I enjoy the atmosphere a lot. I can’t complain at all.
“I knew before the match that the roof was going to be closed. You know what, for a month and a half I didn’t know if I was going to play tennis. It doesn’t matter if it is outdoors or indoors today. I just wanted to play and do my best.”
Nadal is currently tied with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on 20 majors. With all the talk centred on Djokovic’s quest for No. 21 in the build-up – plus his failed bid to play in the tournament after a protracted visa saga – Nadal has slipped under the radar.
The Spaniard has one Australian Open title to his name, from 2009, but has lost his last four finals in Melbourne. Should he win on Sunday, he would become only the second man in Open Era history to win each major twice after Djokovic.
“For me it’s all about the Australian Open more than anything else. It just an amazing event that as I said a couple of days ago now, I have been a little bit unlucky in my career with some injuries," added Nadal.
“At times I play good finals against Novak in 2012 and Roger in 2017. I was lucky to win once in 2009 but I never thought about another chance in 2022. Just enjoy the victory today and after that try my best.”
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