Rafael Nadal ‘dangerous for anyone’ ahead of Australian Open comeback
Rafael Nadal will be a ‘danger’ to anyone at the Australian Open, says Patrick Mouratoglou, but he will find the level has been upped since he stepped away from tennis.
Nadal missed almost all of 2023 due to hip and abdomen problems, and he is set to make his long-awaited comeback in Melbourne.
If practice videos released online are anything to go by, Nadal is looking in impressive shape as he prepares in Kuwait.
However, with the likes of Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune reaching a new level in his absence, Mouratoglou has warned that Nadal may find more obstacles in his way than there were the last time he was on the ATP Tour.
“Rafa has been out of action for a long time and therefore everyone thinks that physically, given his age and the major injuries in his career, he is not in good shape,“ Mouratoglou said.
“But, let’s be clear, if Rafa is physically well, he is dangerous for anyone.”
“It will be interesting to see Nadal on the court, because many young players have improved while he was out and therefore everyone can’t wait to see him on the court.
“Then without a doubt the Roland Garros will be the most important tournament of his season.
“No one knows how Nadal really feels, only he can know his physical condition. This will be fundamental to see his real level in 2024.”
What is protected ranking and how will it help Rafael Nadal?
While Rafael Nadal will be at the Australian Open, he will be so due to protected ranking rather than a wildcard.
A protected ranking is an allowance within the ATP for a player who has suffered long-term injury to not have to start again from the bottom upon their return.
Players can apply for protected ranking six months after their last match and should the ATP grant it they will, for tournament entry purposes, be granted a ranking determined by their average ranking during the first three months of injury.
However, it the protected ranking does come with limitations. For starters, it can only be used for either the first nine tournaments since their return or the first nine months, whichever comes first. That is extended to 12 tournaments and 12 months if he spends more than a year out injured.
Most importantly, though, protected ranking only applies to entry into a tournament – not the seeding.
Therefore, Rafael Nadal will not be seeded at the Australian Open and will therefore be vulnerable to being drawn against a top player, possibly even Novak Djokovic, in the first round in Melbourne.
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