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Rafael Nadal chases a record-setting 21st major title at the 2022 Australian Open.

Nadal: 'Be Humble Enough To Accept The Process'

Spaniard seeks second Australian Open title, record 21st major

Considering all he’s been through in the past six months, Rafael Nadal couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2022.

The Mallorcan played just 29 matches last year, sidelined mid-summer by a left foot injury. Then, just as he was returning to form in December, he tested positive for COVID-19. Yet more time away from the practice court. But since his arrival Down Under, it looks as if he never missed a beat. He claimed his first event of the season — the Melbourne Summer Set — flashing his trademark form and turning back serve-and-volleyer Maxime Cressy in the final, 7-6(6), 6-3.

Then again, Nadal is no stranger to comebacks.

“Unfortunately, I’ve gone through this situation a couple of times in my career,” said the 35-year-old. “But you never know. The day will arrive that a comeback will be impossible. But I just want to try again, no? I want to give my best. I want to give myself a chance to keep enjoying this beautiful sport, to keep fighting for the things that I have been fighting for for the last 16 years.

“Sometimes it’s difficult when you’re going through a lot of physical issues,” he continued. “[It’s] been a very challenging time for me. The last year and a half with my foot, I have been suffering a lot. I think I hold a positive attitude and the working spirit all the time. That’s probably why I’m here today.”

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Nadal will set out in pursuit of a record 21st major singles title next week when play gets underway at the Australian Open, a number that would break a three-way stalemate with career-long rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. The 2009 champion, a runner-up in 2012, 2014, 2017 and 2019, will open against former UCLA standout Marcos Giron of the United States.

Nadal, who hasn’t played a Grand Slam match since falling to Djokovic in an epic five-set semi-final last year at Roland Garros, knows he will have to be patient.

“When you’re coming back from injuries and from a period of time that you are not on the tour, you need to accept that the things are not going to be perfect,” he explained. “That’s the main thing for me: accept that you are sometimes moving a little bit slower, sometimes you are going to miss, sometimes things are not coming that quick and that automatic.

"You need to think more about how to play, about shots, about technical stuff. But it’s about time. I know that. You need to forgive yourself the mistakes and be humble enough to accept the process, accept that sometimes things not going to go that way.”