Australian Open: Nadal insists 'I don't have any big pressure' in quest for 21st major title

By Sports Desk January 19, 2022

Rafael Nadal insisted he does not feel any significant pressure at the Australian Open as he goes in search of a record-breaking 21st grand slam singles title.

The Spaniard eased into the third round on Wednesday with a 6-2 6-3 6-4 over Yannick Hanfmann on Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal, who is now 16-0 in the second round of this event in his career, has enjoyed an encouraging return to action in 2022 following a foot injury.

The 35-year-old won the Melbourne Summer Set warm-up tournament, collecting his 89th title on the ATP Tour in the process, and is now 5-0 for the season.

With Novak Djokovic not involved, the prospect of Nadal winning a second Australian Open title – and a record 21st major overall – is very real.

None of Nadal's vanquished opponents this month are in the top 50 in the world, though, and he could face 28th seed Karen Khachanov in round three before a possible quarter-final against world number three Alexander Zverev.

Still, rather than worry about the matches to come, Nadal is simply enjoying being back on court and retuning his game.

"As I said here before the tournament started, things [are] not going to be perfect, but every day that I'm going to spend on court, the chances to play better are higher," he said.

"I think I am doing things well. Things that I can improve, I have to improve. I want to keep going in the tournament. But winning today allows me to practice again tomorrow, to be ready for another match. After two matches it's the moment to make a step forward. It's not going to be impossible. I'm going to try.

"I'm excited about it. I'm excited about the fact that I'm going to be playing in a third round for one more time here after all the things I am going through.

"I don't have big pressure on my shoulders, honestly. I don't feel it. The pressure is only to stay healthy and to enjoy the fact that I am competing again, then give my best as I did during all my tennis career."

Asked about the potential Zverev match-up, Nadal added: "I don't know. I am in the third round. I need to win very tough matches to be there. It is not in my mind now. I have enough work.

"I think playing against Khachanov now, probably Khachanov, [is] going to be a big challenge.

"I never think that far. You can imagine now less than ever, no? Just staying focused on my daily work, on what's coming, and that's it. One moment in time, that's it."

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