Rafael Nadal heads into tomorrow’s start of the Australian Open under a cloud after more than two weeks of back pain.

The world No. 2 expected to be a title threat appears to be a shadow of his best after battling his physical demons throughout his stay in Australia.

Nadal today had little optimism as the clock ticks down to his first-round encounter at Melbourne Park.

“It’s true that for the last 15 days I have been suffering with the back. So here we are,” he said.

“I tried a little bit today to serve again, I’m doing everything to be ready for it. That’s the only thing that I can say. I’m still hoping to keep improving and be ready.”

Rafael Nadal practices on John Cain Arena. Photo: Tennis Australia/ Mark Peterson

Nadal won the title in 2009 and has since reached four finals, most recently in 2019 against Novak Djokovic.

But his chances after going through a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Australia last month and the start of the delayed Grand Slam do not look brilliant.

“I don’t know the percentage. I think about (this is) Sunday. I have tomorrow and then I play Tuesday,” he said.

“I don’t think about not playing.

Rafael Nadal is hoping his back injury will improve. Photo: Tennis Australia/ Mark Peterson

“I have been practicing great for a lot of weeks, and I’m disappointed about what happened the last couple of weeks, of course.

“The positive feelings that I had have now disappeared a little bit because I was not able to practice the right way.

“I did a lot of things to recover.”

The Spaniard will kick off his Open against Serb Laslo Djere after missing this week’s ATP Cup.

Nadal called his back problem “not serious,” but added:

“The muscle is still tight, it’s difficult to play with freedom of movement. Let’s hope the situation keeps improving.

“We are doing everything. My physio is here, the doctors here, everybody is helping me in all possible ways.

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


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