It’s the Grand Slam Rafael Nadal has won the least – one title at the Australian Open – but that may very well change during the Aussie fortnight. Here are five reasons why the Spaniard will hoist his second Norman Brookes Challenge Cup trophy on 28 January.
1. He’s The No. 1 Player In The ATP Rankings
Say what you want about Nadal’s knees or how he finished the 2017 season, having to withdraw from the Rolex Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals. But Nadal still finished the season better than any other male player on the planet. And he made history doing so.
At the age of 31, the Spaniard became the oldest player to finish year-end No. 1 (since 1973). Nadal, who also finished on top in 2008, 2010 and 2013, also became the first player to hold, lose and regain the year-end No. 1 on three occasions. He was also the seventh player to finish the year at the best vantage point on the ATP World Tour on four or more occasions.
At the Australian Open, Nadal will still be No. 1, the top seed and the player to beat at Melbourne Park. “It’s been a fantastic season, a very emotional one after all the things I’ve been going through the last couple of years,” Nadal said last year after accepting the year-end No. 1 honour. “It’s not something I could’ve thought of one year ago, so it means a lot to me.”
2. Break Time
Nadal, like nearly every player on the ATP World Tour, endured his share of nicks and bruises during the 2017 season. But the Spaniard has enjoyed ample time to rest and prepare for the new year.
He withdrew from the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals on 13 November. The Australian Open will be his first tournament since his final match at The O2 in London. That gives Nadal a more than two-month break to start the new year.
3. The Draw
The dangerously-seeded No. 14 Novak Djokovic and No. 9 Stan Wawrinka are on the other half of the draw, and Nadal has a favourable start in Melbourne, where he will try to become the first man in the Open Era to win each Grand Slam twice. Nadal could face the following road if the seeds and rankings hold:
Nadal’s Potential Path To The Australian Open Title