Rafael Nadal has arrived in Melbourne, confirming his participation at the Australian Open despite recently testing positive for Covid-19.
The 20-time grand slam champion announced his arrival Down Under on Friday night, posting a photo of himself standing on the Rod Laver Arena court on social media.
'NO FAVOURS': Aussie tennis star's cheeky dig at Roger Federer
"Don't tell anyone ... here I am," Nadal wrote.
The Twitter post allays any fears that the Spaniard would miss the year-opening grand slam after catching Covid-19 while playing in an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi in December.
🤫 Don’t tell anyone…
… here I am 😉 pic.twitter.com/x1F2BJnH3y
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) December 31, 2021
The 35-year-old played in Abu Dhabi for the first time since spending four months on the sidelines with a long-term foot problem.
He was knocked out at Roland Garros in the French Open semi-finals and was forced to pull out of Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and the US Open because of the injury.
Nadal's participation is a huge boost for Australian Open officials as he tries to break the men's grand slam record he currently holds jointly with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Federer won't be playing at the Australian Open after undergoing a third knee surgery in 2021, while Djokovic's participation is still under a cloud due to his vaccination status.
Nadal will be expected to kick off his preparations for the grand slam by returning to the tour for the first time since August at the ATP 250 event in Melbourne from Tuesday.
Huge boost for Australian Open after spate of withdrawals
His arrival will be a boost for the Open, which has been ravaged by injuries to Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem, Serena Williams, Bianca Andreescu and Karolina Pliskova.
Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov, Belinda Bencic and Ons Jabeur also tested positive for Covid-19 after playing in Abu Dhabi.
There is still uncertainty around Djokovic playing the Australian Open, where the 34-year-old has won a record nine titles including the last three.
Speculation over the World No.1's participation was heightened this week when he pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney.
"World No.1 Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the 2022 ATP Cup," organisers said in a statement ahead of Saturday's start to the team tournament.
"Team Serbia will now be led by world No.33 Dusan Lajovic."
Djokovic has previously expressed his opposition to the vaccine and his father Srdjan said in late November that Djokovic would probably not play the first grand slam of the year, accusing the organisers of "blackmail".
Djokovic has been named in the entry list for the Australian Open, which starts on January 17, but he could yet withdraw.
"I honestly don't know Novak's current situation with anything Covid-related or what he needs to play," Aussie star Nick Kyrgios said this week.
"I hope he's had a good Christmas and I hope he's able to play in the sport for as long as possible because I've voiced before I think Federer, Nadal and Djokovic need to be (playing).
"If all three aren't there, it's a disaster."
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