Worst Start Of Season: Rafael Nadal’s doctor gives Australian Open fitness update

Rafael Nadal’s long-time doctor has issued an update on his fitness ahead of the Australian Open after the Spaniard suffered his worst-ever start to a season by losing his first two matches. The world No 2 had the second half of his 2022 season derailed by injury but Dr Angel Ruiz-Cotorro believes Nadal is making progress and is no longer physically hindered.

Nadal has suffered the worst start to a season in his career, losing his first two matches for the first time as he was defeated by Cameron Norrie and Alex de Minaur at the United Cup. It means the 36-year-old has now lost six of his seven last matches dating back to last year’s US Open, when he tore his abdomen for a second time.

But the 22-time Grand Slam champion’s doctor isn’t concerned about Nadal’s tough start to the year because he believes it’s just a hangover from his lack of match play in the second half of 2022. “It’s fine, in the progression phase, because it’s what you need when the year has ended without rhythm,” Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro said during a recent event.

Nadal’s two defeats have come in three sets, with Norrie downing the world No 2 6-3 3-6 6-4 before de Minaur won 6-3 1-6 7-5 after the Spaniard led 5-4 in the final set, and his doctor is taking the positives from the world No 2’s close matches even though he has come out on the losing side of them.

Ruiz-Cotorro claimed that Nadal was playing “good games” and, more importantly, is “feeling well” after suffering with foot, rib and abdominal injuries last year. Nadal’s personal doctor also works with the Spanish team and was also hoping that the likes of Carlos Alcaraz would be ready in time for the Australian Open after ending his season early with an abdominal tear of his own.

“Hopefully, like all Spaniards, Carlos, Pablo [Carreno Busta], Roberto [Bautista Agut], are ready to compete in Australia and we hope everything goes well,” he added. Meanwhile Nadal himself is feeling positive after getting some more matches under his belt ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year, where he is the defending champion.

“Well, six hours on court almost. I need hours on court. I need battles like this. Didn’t play much official matches the last six months, almost seven,” he said after his defeat to de Minaur. And last year’s Aussie Open winner also thought he was close to his best, admitting he just needed to become used to the pace of a match after recovering physically.

“Physically was not that bad,” he said. “I need to, as I said the other day, I need to be a little bit faster, a little bit more dynamic on court, to read a little bit better the ball. That gives you the confidence, the hours on court, playing matches, and that’s it. In terms of physical issues, I can’t complain. Happy for that. That helps a lot to keep going.

“And that’s it, no. I just believe that the situation is how it is, and I have to improve. That’s it, no. I really believe it gonna happen. When, I don’t know. But I really hope that it gonna happen soon, because I don’t feel that I am that far.”

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