Rafael Nadal isn’t happy with the Australian Open as he vented his frustrations days before the Grand Slam gets underway.
The tennis superstar took aim at the balls being used for the 2023 tournament, labelling them the “worse quality”.
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Nadal reigned supreme in a five-set epic against Daniil Medvedev last year in a win that saw him capture his 21st Grand Slam victory. Moving ahead Roger Federer on the all-time list.
He’ll kick of his 2023 campaign as the top seed on Monday afternoon when he takes on Britain’s Jack Draper.
The 36-year-old however enters after a less than favourable build up which saw him lose twice during the United Cup in Sydney to Australia’s Alex de Minaur and Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
He then fell in a practice match to world number 11 Hubert Hurkacz on Thursday. All three matches had one thing in common and it’s what Nadal believes is the biggest issue at the Australian Open.
The Spaniard said he had adapted to the surfaces in Melbourne, but said it was the Open’s new official ball, Dunlop, which was causing issues.
“No, the speed of the court I think (is) not big difference. The ball, yes. I don’t know.
“They say (it) is the same, but the ball is worse quality, without a doubt. We can’t talk about that any more. It’s what we have. We need to play with it.
“I think it’s a ball that doesn’t get the same spin as usual. After a couple of hits, the ball loses the pressure. It’s more difficult to hit with the right spin. But I think it’s easier to play when you play flatter on the shots.”
Nadal’s game style over the years has been predicated on insane amounts of top spin, but with the new balls he finds himself behind the eight-ball.
Despite this, the 22-time Grand Slam winner isn’t backing away and is ready to adapt to the challenge the balls present.
“I need to live with it,” he added. “I think I practised enough with the ball to be ready for it.”
Nadal has lost six of his past seven tournament matches, a fact he brushed aside by stating the last few weeks have been a positive.
“My personal momentum is not bad, I tell you. I am good and happy. I’m practising well. Then I need to win a couple of matches,” Nadal said.
“If that can happen here – I hope. If don’t, I going to keep working to make that happen as soon as possible … I think I am in an improvement moment that I have been better and better every single week. I feel faster in the legs. I feel playing better with more confidence. The last three weeks of preparation here have been very positive from my point of view”
He added: “I would love to arrive here with a couple of victories, yes. That didn’t happen, so I need to accept that, need to live with it. The rest of the parts of my game that I have been working with, I am quite happy and I feel ready, in terms of trying to play a very good tennis on Monday. Then I need to make that happen and I’m going to fight for it.”
Nadal’s Australian Open title defence gets underway at 2:30pm (AEDT) on Monday, January 16.