Rafael Nadal has his hands full with Australian Open title defence

Rafael Nadal in action Credit: Alamy
Rafael Nadal in action Credit: Alamy

Former Australian tennis star Paul McNamee dismissed the chances of Rafael Nadal winning his 23rd Grand Slam at the Australian Open.

McNamee opined that Nadal will be a genuine Grand Slam contender at the French Open, but believes injuries have robbed him of his legendary court coverage.

The 36-year-old remains confident of defending his men’s singles crown at Melbourne Park later this month.

However, McNamee insists that he will be stunned if the veteran snares a record-extending Major.

Now a prominent sports administrator, who previously served as tournament director of the Hopman Cup and as CEO of AFL club Melbourne Demons, McNamee also said that Nadal has ‘lost a yard’ of speed and isn’t the same threat on court as he once was.

Nadal lost both his matches in the United Cup and McNamee feels that the writing is on the wall for the Raging Bull.

McNamee wrote in his Sydney Morning Herald column: “Like Federer before him, Nadal is battling injuries. In 2022, he had an abdominal tear, taking him out of an appetising semi at Wimbledon against Nick Kyrgios, plus there was a recurrence of a chronic ankle injury, and he has long battled tendonitis in the knees.”

Nadal has bristled at constant questions about his retirement, and McNamee can see where he is coming from.

“After all, in 2022 he won two grand slam titles, and he became a father for the first time. That’s a very successful year by any measure. He now sits on a record 22 grand slam titles, one ahead of Djokovic and two ahead of Federer. These particular stats in the GOAT (greatest of all time) race are arguably the most important, but in my opinion the three members of the trinity will all need to be retired before their careers can be evaluated.”

McNamee believes that Nadal will still be the favourite at the French Open where his devastating forehand will be able to make maximum impact.

“For me, even if Nadal went from a 22-match streak last year to hardly winning a match in this new season, he would still go in as the favourite at Roland Garros. There’s a good reason for that.

“On clay, there’s a maxim I subscribe to: “The best shot wins.” Well, in my opinion, the Nadal forehand is the single best shot in the history of tennis. Better than the Sampras or Federer serves, the Del Potro forehand or the Djokovic or Rosewall backhands. It’s handy when you go into every match, on every surface, knowing you have the best shot on the court.”

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