Huge boost for Rafa Nadal in 23-year Australian Open first

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Rafa Nadal (pictured left) congratulates Novak Djokovic (pictured right) at Wimbledon.
This is the first time in 23 years both Novak Djokovic (pictured right) and Roger Federer will miss a grand slam together, opening the draw up for Rafa Nadal. (Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal is seeking a record men's 21 grand slam titles at the Australian Open and Novak Djokovic's departure has created a 23-year first for the Spaniard.

After 11 days of unprecedented tennis drama, Djokovic accepted his fate and flew out of the country at 10.51pm on Sunday after a three-judge panel of the Federal Court ruled unanimously against his visa appeal.

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The World No.1 will be unable to defend his Australian Open title and will have to wait in his quest for a 21st grand slam title.

However, Djokovic's departure - along with Roger Federer's injury absence - has created a unique situation for Nadal.

The last time only one of the 'Big Three' competed at the Australian Open was way back in 2003, which included Federer but was before Nadal or Djokovic had debuted at a grand slam.

The last time both Djokovic and Federer were missing from a grand slam was way back in 1999.

Despite both the 20-time grand slam champions missing, Nadal will face a tough ask to claim a record haul considering his injury lay-off and the form of US Open winner Daniil Medvedev.

Nadal was able to lift the Melbourne Summer Set 1 trophy last week, but has hardly played tennis since his injury lay-off after the French Open.

Rafael Nadal's Australian Open quest

While Nadal will be the crowd favourite to lift his second Australian Open title, which would bring many in the tennis world solace after the drama overshadowing the lead-up to the tournament, he faces strong resistance from Medvedev.

Medvedev was blown away by nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic in last year's final at Rod Laver Arena but has returned a different player.

He went on to win the US Open after wiping Djokovic aside to claim his maiden title.

The deprecating Russian said his first grand slam title gave him unprecedented confidence leading up to the first grand slam of the year.

"Sometimes before the tournaments, I could be a little bit concerned if I was not playing well ... I would lose a practice set, I would be concerned, a little bit nervous, sometimes angry," Medvedev said.

"(The US Open title) did change this.

Daniil Medvedev (pictured) shares a laugh during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open.
Daniil Medvedev (pictured) reacts during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

"Now I feel like I know even more what I can do, how I can play, what I have to do to play like this.

"Of course, tennis is about ups and downs ... we never know what's going to happen

"In general, the US Open title gave me a lot of confidence, I want to say, in my life and in my tennis life as well.

"I'm feeling much more confident than last year in terms of knowing my game (and) what I'm capable of."

As it stands for Djokovic, the un-jabbed star will not be permitted into America for this year's US Open, he may not be allowed into Britain for Wimbledon and his access to Paris for the French Open remains uncertain.

As a citizen of the European Union, Djokovic is likely to be allowed into Paris to defend his Roland Garros crown providing he follows France's current and strict protocols for the unvaccinated.

If Medvedev was to win the Australian Open he would also snap Djokovic's World No.1 run.

with AAP

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