Nadal in Melbourne, announces ‘Here I am’


Rafael Nadal has arrived in Melbourne, confirming his readiness to pursue a record 21st grand slam title at next month’s Australian Open by posting a picture of himself standing on the Rod Laver Arena court on social media.

Friday’s twitter post will allay fears that the Spaniard would miss the tournament after catching COVID-19 while playing in an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi in December.

“Don’t tell anyone … here I am,” Nadal, who is tied on a men’s record 20 major titles with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, wrote from Melbourne Park.

Nadal, 35, played in Abu Dhabi after spending four months on the sidelines with a long-term foot problem. He was knocked out at Roland Garros in the French Open semi-finals and was forced to pull out of Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and the US Open.

The positive COVID-19 test cast further doubt on whether he would play at the Australian Open — a tournament where he has won once and been runner-up four times.

Nadal will be expected to kick off his preparations for the grand slam by returning to the tour for the first time since August at the ATP 250 event in Melbourne from Tuesday.

His arrival will be a boost for the Open, which has been ravaged by injuries with Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem, Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu all missing.

There is still uncertainty if Serbia’s world No.1 Novak Djokovic will play at the Australian Open, where the 34-year-old has won a record nine titles including the last three.

Speculation over Djokovic’s participation was heightened after he pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney which starts on Saturday.