Doubtful Nadal rules out Australian Open glory

Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:08pm EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal has downplayed his chances of winning the Australian Open, saying his back remains a concern and he lacks confidence from having little match practice in the lead-up.

On the comeback trail after injury and illness wiped out the latter half of his 2014 season, the Spaniard had a poor start to his new year, dumped from the first round of the Qatar Open by German journeyman Michael Berrer.

"No, I don't consider myself one of the favorites here," the 28-year-old, seeded third for the tournament, told reporters at Melbourne Park.

"Last year, yes. This year is a different story. (I) would be lying if I say I feel that I am ready to win today. I don't feel myself ready to win the tournament here today.

"If I am here in a press conference in one week, maybe I will say another thing because I will have the feeling that I will play a few matches, and if I'm able to win that couple of matches, then probably I will have little bit more rhythm, I will have more confidence.

"But in theory, playing four, five matches in seven months, you cannot be a favorite of a tournament that is not clay, it's on hard (courts)."

Nadal made the final last year but was beaten by Stan Wawrinka in four sets, having carried a painful back injury into the match that affected his movement.

He recovered to win a record ninth French Open crown but was blighted by a wrist injury and then appendicitis late in the year.   Continued...

Rafael Nadal of Spain cries as he attends the trophy ceremony after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their men's singles final match to win the French Open Tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris June 8, 2014.               REUTERS/Vincent Kessler