Rafael Nadal written off as Australian Open contender

Rafael Nadal after a match

Rick Macci believes that Rafael Nadal will struggle to prove that he is a title contender at the Australian Open.

Nadal announced this week that he would return to action at the Brisbane International ahead of the Australian Open.

Macci feels that injury will have robbed Nadal of his imposing aura.

The coach doubts that Nadal has the level to match the best players in the world right now.

“As far as Rafa coming back, as you get older, you lose a little mobility and people aren’t afraid when they know you’re vulnerable,” Macci told Tennis Infinity.

“There’s not that much difference between the guys at the top and then the next tier, and when they know they have a chance, that’s a whole different thing, even on clay.

“Where before against Rafa, he’s 112-3 on clay [at Roland Garros]. The match was over before it even started. You knew you weren’t going to beat the guy more than likely.

“So that being said, I wish Rafa all the best, but he’s not at the exact same level he was before so I don’t think he’s a contender to win a Slam. I think he can be competitive and I think he’s a rough out for anybody on clay, but it depends on his health.”

Nadal has been optimistic about holding up to Grand Slam tennis as he chases a big farewell season.

“Until now, I didn’t know if I would ever play tennis again and now I think so. What has changed from a few weeks ago to now is that now I know that I am going to play tennis again.

“I didn’t know it before, but now, honestly, I know it because the evolution is positive. Big steps have been taken lately. I’m not yet ready to say where. When I know, I will be the first to say it. It’s a good period of my life. It’s a step forward, without a doubt, and it means a lot.”

Nadal will start his official comeback at the Brisbane International but will play an exhibition event in Kuwait in December.

Having slipped well away from the top 32 places on the ATP rankings, Nadal will not be seeded for the Australian Open and could turn up anywhere in the draw for the first Grand Slam of the year.

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