Understated Nadal raring for Open defence

Novak Djokovic might be the centre of attention at Melbourne Park but Rafael Nadal is adamant he's ready to defend his Australian Open title in style.

The build-up to the Open start next week has largely revolved around nine-time champion Djokovic's return to his favoured slam after his deportation saga last year, along with world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz's withdrawal.

Reigning champion and top seed Nadal is enjoying a more understated final week before chasing a record-extending 23rd grand slam title, and first since becoming a father to Rafael Jnr in October.

The 36-year-old shrugged off United Cup defeats to Alex de Minaur and Cameron Norrie and his limited end to last season, after foot, rib and abdomen issues restricted him to just four events after Wimbledon in July.

"Well, it's true that the last couple of months I was not able to play much tennis and at the beginning of the season I lost two matches in Sydney, but honestly I am not unhappy with the preparation," the world No.2 said in Melbourne on Tuesday.

"I need to win matches for sure. But the preparation is going quite well, practising a lot and I think I am in good shape.

"Then you need to demonstrate that in the matches, in the official tournaments.

"But I'm confident that if I am able to have this last week of positive practices, why not?"

Nadal is eyeing the opportunity to recover a two-slam title buffer on Djokovic (21) by claiming a third Melbourne Park title.

Roger Federer, Djokovic and Nadal were all tied on 20 grand slam titles ahead of last year's Australian Open.

Nadal went two clear by winning at Melbourne Park in Djokovic's absence, then at Roland Garros, before Djokovic claimed his 21st at Wimbledon, while Federer retired.

The Spaniard had a spirited training session with five-time finalist Andy Murray on Tuesday.

Meanwhile former world No.3 Dominic Thiem says he's making steady progress as he continues to resurrect his career following a serious wrist injury 18 months ago.

He tore the major tendon that connects the forearm to the wrist twice, which led to issues with his hand and his elbow.

Thiem, who won the US Open in 2020 and was a beaten finalist at Melbourne Park in the same year, has been working his way back after his ranking plunged to 346 last June.

He was given a wildcard into the Open this year.

"The body is good, last year was a good step in a good direction and I just hope I can continue it this year and hopefully the Australian Open next week is a good start for that," the 29-year-old Austrian said after losing to de Minaur 6-3 6-4 at the Kooyong Classic.

"I'm ready to go in the grand slam but I don't know how good I am at the moment.

"It's difficult to go deep in the slam - all the players are on a high level so we will see but I've had a good preparation."