Melbourne — Rafa Nadal brushed aside questions about the Australian Open quarantine on Sunday and said it is time to get down to the business of playing tennis and entertaining fans worldwide.
The 34-year-old, who secured his 20th Grand Slam title at the 2020 delayed French Open, completed his two weeks of isolation in Adelaide on Friday before playing an exhibition match and then heading to Melbourne.
“When we arrived here, we have this quarantine. But I think that’s over. It’s the moment to start talking about tennis,” the world No 2 told reporters on Sunday.
“That’s why we came here. To play tennis, to try to give to the fans around the world and to the fans here in Australia a good show. For some of the people who are suffering a lot at home, we try to have a good entertainment for them.”
Nadal will get his first taste of competitive action for the season when he spearheads Spain’s challenge for the ATP Cup, which makes a much-delayed start in Melbourne on Tuesday. Spain lost the ATP Cup final to Novak Djokovic’s Serbia in 2020 and Nadal said he and his teammates will be doing their best to go one better this year, despite the proximity of the tournament to the February 8 start of the Australian Open.
“Of course, it’s different circumstances than last year. It’s a very unusual situation for most of us,” he said. “Most of you that are around tennis know I never play the week before a Grand Slam, so it is a little new and it is strange situation.
“But here I am, the same as the rest of the team, to try our best in every moment. Everybody’s ready to play, and to play with [a] very competitive level.”
Nadal starts his season against Australia’s Alex de Minaur in an ATP Cup Group B singles match on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.
World No 1 Djokovic found playing without crowds last season strange and he cannot wait to wow the fans in the stands at his 17th Australian Open.
About 25,000-30,000 fans will be admitted to Melbourne Park on each day of the Grand Slam and Djokovic got a taste of what was to come when he played an exhibition match in Adelaide after coming out of quarantine on Friday.
“I had goosebumps coming into the court playing in front of the fans again after 12 months of not experiencing that,” the Serbian said on Sunday. “After playing professional tennis for more than 15 years, this is one of the biggest driving forces or motivations, inspirations that I have, playing in front of a crowd — feeding off that energy, exchanging that great passion and joy that I have for the sport and the fans have for the sport.”
Djokovic said the blister on his right hand that restricted him to one set in Adelaide on Friday was “nothing major” and would not be an issue when he leads Serbia in their ATP Cup title defence this week.
Having upset some locals when he sent a letter to organisers asking for the quarantine conditions to be changed, Djokovic expressed his gratitude at being able to play in Australia.
“I’m grateful, as I think most of us that are here in Australia, that we have an opportunity to practice and to play and to compete in the sport that we love,” he said. “So we are all excited to be here.”
The 33-year-old has won eight of his 17 Grand Slam titles at Melbourne Park and said it feels like a homecoming returning at the start of each year.
“It does feel like a home for me in Australia, in Melbourne, particularly in Rod Laver [Arena]. That is by far my most successful tennis court in my career.
“Each year that I come back to the court, it feels even better. The more you win on the court, the more confident you feel coming back to it.”