Rafael Nadal’s 2023 has not started in the best way. Two defeats in as many games played, against Cameron Norrie and Alex De Miñaur, make the situation in the Balearic Islands worrying to say the least. If the premature elimination of his Spain from the United Cup is not in itself a bitter disappointment, the two setbacks suffered by the British tennis player and the Australian are a small wake-up call ahead of the most important commitment that will be played from 16 to 30 January, Australian Open.
The 22-time Slam champion’s form is improving, though, having dropped a set in both matches and then come from behind, thanks to still-not-great form. In Melbourne, his next match, Nadal will arrive with a record of six losses in his last eight.
Their unwinnable elimination from the United Cup, however, may not be the only piece of bad news to come from their unfortunate start to the year in Australia. In case of victory for Casper Ruud, who plays tomorrow against the Italian Matteo Berrettini, he would complete the overtaking of the Spanish phenomenon by five points.
The Norwegian talent, finalist at Roland Garros and the US Open, has 5,720 points in the ATP ranking. Nadal, defeated and eliminated, has 5,770. A win would earn him 55 points tomorrow, which would give him second place. Italy and Norway are tied in Group E in Brisbane, and the Azzurri currently lead the Scandinavian team by two points, thanks to Martina Trevisan’s victory over Malene Helgo, while Lorenzo Musetti disposed of the modest Viktor Durasovic.
There is also the possibility, albeit remote, of a double overtaking. If Stefanos Tsitsipas, momentarily at 5555, were to lead his Greece to the final, or even lift the trophy, he would put the arrow on the 36-year-old, beating him up the rankings.
Rafa has lost six of his last seven games
Retired Australian professional tennis player Paul McNamee believes that Rafael Nadal will have a difficult time defending his Australian Open title this year. «This time Djokovic, the nine-time champion and deserved favorite is here, and Nadal is not even the highest ranked Spaniard!
That mantle belongs to world number 1 Carlos Alcaraz: young, strong and hyper-fast, someone the Australian crowds need to see,» he wrote in his column for The Age. “The X factor is Nadal’s body. There is speculation that his abdominal injury is affecting his delivery, but more concerning to me is his recent admission: «I need to be a little faster physically.»
Court coverage has always been an important asset for Nadal but, and to say this is cruel, I’m afraid he has lost a yard.»