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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, January 31, 2021

 
Rafael Nadal

" "It's the moment to start talking about tennis," says Rafael Nadal.

Photo credit: @ATP Cup

Rafael Nadal is ready for action—and welcomes bringing the focus back between the lines.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion leads Spain in next week's ATP Cup at Melbourne Park in preparation for what could be a statement Slam at the Australian Open.

More: Australian Open To Allow 30,000 Fans Per Day Week One

After two weeks of talk assessing the hard quarantine 72 players served in Melbourne compared to the softer quarantine bubble top stars including Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Nadal enjoyed in Adelaide, the world No. 2 says he's eager to get back to business.

"When we arrived here, we have this quarantine. But I think that's over," Nadal told the media in Melbourne. "It's the moment to start talking about tennis."

Nadal will be a topic of conversation throughout the Australian season.

Tennis Express

The left-handed Spaniard showed his aggression out-dueling US Open champion Dominic Thiem in A Day at the Drive exhibition in Adelaide last week.

The king of clay launches his 2021 ATP season with a bang squaring off against feisty Aussie Alex de Minaur in his ATP Cup opener on Tuesday night.

The ATP Cup is a prelude to Nadal's charge at history as he aims for his record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. Nadal is bidding for his first AO title since 2009 and trying to break eight-time champion Novak Djokovic's dominance on Rod Laver Arena.

Embed from Getty Images


Playing amid the pandemic has infused Nadal with a sense of perspective as he he pursues history.

AO conditions could give Nadal a boost as well as Tennis Australia announced it will allow 30,000 fans per day during opening week. Few players in the sport can electrify a crowd like Nadal and he'll try to use that interactive energy with enthusiastic Aussie fans to power another deep run. Nadal has reached the AO quarterfinals or better in 12 of his last 13 Melbourne starts.


"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," Nadal said. "For some of the people who are suffering a lot at home, we try to have a good entertainment for them."

This Australian Open Slam figures to reward fitness and toughness. How will those players confined to hard quarantine for two weeks physically and mentally respond to the rigors of Grand Slam play without adequate preparation? And while the world's top three enjoyed the advantages of Adelaide's kinder bubble, all three face the quick turnaround time and the adjustment to the unfamiliar experience of playing the week before a major.

"Of course, it's different circumstances than last year. It's a very unusual situation for most of us," Nadal said. "Most of you that are around tennis knows I never play the week before a Grand Slam, so it is a little bit new and it is strange situation."


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal)



While his coach, Carlos Moya, did not make the trip to Melbourne, Nadal will be aided by long-time coach Francisco Roig and armed with a brand-new Babolat bag he showed off in an Instagram post today.

 

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