Rafael Nadal bristles at career speculation ahead of Australian Open

Already being peppered with questions about his retirement, Rafael Nadal has made it clear the Australian Open is his biggest priority.

Rafael Nadal reacts to a shot against Cameron Norrie at the United Cup.
Rafael Nadal was quick to remind reporters he is not yet considering retirement after being peppered with questions about it at the United Cup. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal has bristled at questions regarding his potential retirement from tennis after losing to rising British star Cameron Norrie at the United Cup. Nadal, 36, welcomed his first child in 2022 with wife Xisca Perello, prompting widespread speculation as to when the Spanish superstar would call time on his career.

The Spaniard was beaten by Norrie 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Sydney on New Year's Eve, as he prepares to defend his memorable Australian Open title. However couldn't help but point out the sheer number of questions about his playing future, insisting that he would make that decision when he was ready.

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For now, he said, his absolute priority was being able to perform to the best of his ability, after returning from injury to win at both Melbourne Park and Roland Garros in 2022. Nadal was also part of an emotional farewell for longtime rival and friend Roger Federer late last year.

" For me, I lost my match, that's it," he observed. "Every time that I am coming to a press conference it seems that I have to retire.

"So, you are very, very interested in my retirement. I mean, that's , for the moment, not the case. When this day arrives, I'm gonna let you know guys. Don't keep going with the retirement (questions) because I'm going to keep playing tennis."

Norrie's victory over Nadal kept Great Britain's impressive run at the United Cup alive, after they easily took care of Australia in the first round following the withdrawals of Nick Kyrgios and Ajla Tomljanovic. The 27-year-old said the team atmosphere had been a crucial factor in his breakthrough win over the world No.2.

"That was pretty crazy," Norrie said in his on-court interview after the match. "I was thinking, just as you said, I'd never won a set before so I wanted to come out and firstly do that and I had to stay super patient.

"It was a super physical match. I really enjoyed it. It was huge to get through that one and finally beat him. He's beaten me easy the last few times. So a great way to end the year for me and end 2022. It was a crazy atmosphere. Thank you guys. It was amazing."

Spain on the brink in United Cup after Rafa Nadal loss

Nadal's shock loss, plus Katie Swan's upset win over Nuria Parrizas Diaz, gave Great Britain a surprise 2-0 lead over Spain in Sydney on New Year's Eve. Those results mean Badosa needs to beat world No.98 Harriet Dart and Carreno Busta must get the job done against Daniel Evans to send the tie to a live mixed doubles on New Year's Day.

Nadal is currently listed to play in the mixed doubles, and the 22-time grand slam champion is no doubt champing at the bit to make up for his opening-match loss. Great Britain have already beaten Australia 3-2 in the opening tie. If they also defeat Spain, it would mean that neither Australia nor Spain would be able to win the title.

Rafael Nadal is pictured opening a water bottle during a break in play.
Rafael Nadal will look to lift Spain out of a tricky situation against Great Britain in the United Cup. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

"It's true that the competition, the format, doesn't give you a lot of chances, a lot of room for mistakes, no?" Nadal said. "Losing my match now we are under a lot of pressure. So let's see."

Germany are also under pressure after falling 2-0 behind to the Czech Republic. Petra Kvitova can wrap up the tie for the Czech Republic with a win over world No.27 Laura Siegemund.

Norway trail Brazil 2-0, and the pressure will be on Casper Ruud when the world No.3 takes on Thiago Monteiro in Brisbane. Belgium and Bulgaria are locked at 1-1 in their tie, as are Poland and Kazakhstan.

With AAP

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