Rafael Nadal has started his Australian Open preparations in the best way possible, defeating rival Dominic Thiem 7-5, 6-4 at the Adelaide exhibition event on Friday. In the on-court interview after his win, Nadal expressed his gratitude to the officials for their help, and also joked about how his lone Australian Open win in 2009 tends to get lost amid his other accomplishments.
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem - along with the WTA top three - have been quarantining in Adelaide for the last two weeks. Due to the lack of space in Melbourne, Tennis Australia shifted the biggest stars to the South Australian city for their isolation period.
In return for this gesture the South Australian government asked for the scheduling of an exhibition event - 'A Day at the Drive' - which finally took place on Friday.
In his post-match comments Rafael Nadal lauded the Australians for their stellar efforts in dealing with COVID-19, while also recalling Spain’s struggles on that front. According to the World No. 2, spending 14 days in quarantine is 'not ideal' but is necessary given the current global health situation.
"Yeah, (it has) been a very hard year for all the world in general," Nadal said. "So for us in Spain we were hit very hard by the virus, so we still in a very tough situation. I think Australia is an amazing positive example on how to make things the right way, to control the pandemic, so many congratulations to the country."
"Last two weeks have been great honestly, of course it is not ideal to stay 14 days under quarantine but that’s the way we need to do things today," he added. "So we can’t thank enough South Australia, can’t thank enough Tennis Australia for all the positive things that they make for us."
Rafael Nadal also expressed his delight at playing in front of a packed stadium, and added that he hopes to have the 'right preparation' ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam. Nadal has 20 Major titles to his name but has won the Australian Open only once, and the Mallorcan referred to that imbalance while speaking to the spectators.
"I think for both (himself and Dominic Thiem) of us it's been an amazing pleasure to be here in Adelaide for the first time in our lives," Nadal added. "Has been amazing to play a game in front of you guys, we missed (this) a lot. And yeah, I hope to have the right preparation for the Australian Open. I won there in 2009, I think almost everybody forget about that (laughs) but I keep trying hard! This year it is a special one and I gonna keep trying my best."
I am super happy, enjoying every single moment: Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal has put together a legendary career for himself, but he has often been held back by injuries. As such, the Spaniard admitted that he never expected to achieve as much as he actually has.
Rafael Nadal added that he is 'super happy' that he is still able to compete and play in front of packed stands - something that he hopes sees a return all over the world in the near future.
"I never dreamed about being where I am at 34," Nadal said. "If you tell me that 10 years ago, I will tell you, okay forget it but here I am and I am super happy, enjoying every single moment that I am able keep competing, keep playing in front of the best crowds in the world. Hopefully this situation will go away quick and we will be able to enjoy the fans on the court."