From the press room: Back muscle hinders Nadal; Djokovic's love affair

From the press room: Back muscle hinders Nadal; Djokovic's love affair

Rafael Nadal told press on Sunday that his positive feelings coming into the Australian Open have "disappeared a little bit" due to tightness in his back. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka appeared ready to get their campaigns underway.

On the eve of the 2021 Australian Open beginning, a few notable champions held their pre-tournament press conferences. Here’s a taste of what was shared at the microphone on Sunday.

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal downplayed his fitness, noting that his back is still troubling him heading into the first major of 2021. The 20-time major titlist did not participate in Spain’s three ATP Cup ties this week after taking part in Adelaide’s “Day at the Drive” Exhibition.

“The whole positive feelings that I had one week and a half ago, two weeks and a half ago now disappeared a little bit, because I was not able to practice the right way the last week and a half. At the same time, I’m still not having the best feeling possible on the back,” Nadal said. “I am practicing again. I did a lot of things to recover. Is not serious, but the muscle is still tight, so [it was] difficult to play with freedom of movements today. Let's hope situation keep improving.”

“I hope to be ready, that's all. I know sometimes things change quick. I going to keep staying positive and keep doing everything I can.”

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His chief rival, eight-time Australian Open winner and top-ranked Novak Djokovic, drew comparisons of his relationship with the Happy Slam to Nadal’s at Roland Garros. The defending champion opens with Jeremy Chardy Monday night on Rod Laver Arena.

“It's a love affair. Probably something similar maybe not like Rafa has with the French Open, but I've been feeling more comfortable on the court each year that I've been coming back,” Djokovic said.

“When I stepped on the court this year for the first time in the practice session, I relived some of the memories from last year, also the other years that I won the tournament here. It just gives me great sensation[s], [a] great feeling, confidence. It feels right. It feels like the place where I should be and where I have historically always been able to perform my best tennis.”

Stan Wawrinka, who beat both Djokovic and Nadal en route to winning his first major seven years ago at Melbourne Park, said he was feeling “OK” ahead of launching his bid. Wawrinka is projected to meet Djokovic in the round of 16 and faces Pedro Sousa to kick off play Monday on John Cain Arena.

"I'm feeling ready to start the tournament,” the Swiss said. “I didn't have the best preparation, but since I arrive[d] here I've been practicing well, I've been getting back on shape little by little.”