Thanks for visiting the Australian Open Website. We can see you’re using Internet Explorer, and wanted to let you know that we will no longer be supporting this browser in future. We’d recommend you download a new browser if you'd like to continue keeping up with all of the latest tennis news!

Confidence high for Nadal, Muguruza, Tsitsipas as round one looms

  • Matt Trollope

They may not be the outright favourites at Australian Open 2022, but Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have the necessary Grand Slam pedigree to be considered major threats at Melbourne Park.

Nadal enters the tournament after missing the second half of 2021 with a foot injury, but with enhanced confidence following his victory last week at the Melbourne Summer Set – his first title on Australian soil in 13 years.

"I really believe that if I am healthy and if I am able to play weeks in a row, have more or less a normal calendar, I will have my chances to be in an important position on the tour and give myself chances to keep fighting for important things," the 35-year-old said on Saturday.

"That's the main goal for me. First thing, be healthy. Then hold the passion.

"That sometimes is difficult when you are going through a lot of physical issues. But is something that I am very satisfied because has been very challenging time for me, no? Last year and a half with my foot, I have been suffering a lot.

"I think I hold the positive attitude and the working spirit all the time. That's probably why I'm here today."

Nadal, an Australian Open champion in 2009, is in the next fortnight targeting a men's record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title. 

While compatriot Muguruza is yet to hoist the trophy at Melbourne Park, she is a Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion, and a former world No.1, who came within a set of the Australian title in 2020. 

Fresh off her victory at the WTA Finals in November and back up to world No.3, Muguruza, too, believes more Grand Slam success is within her grasp.

"I feel a lot of emotions when I step into the Rod Laver court because I was very close of having this Grand Slam in my pocket," said Muguruza, who fell to Sofia Kenin in that 2020 finale.

"But I'm excited. It gives me the certainty that I can do it. Also the year which I reached the final was a very tough physical year for me because I got so sick, whole story. But I made it.

"Why not do it again? Of course, it's complicated. You have to put so many things together. You know how it is, it's hard. But I've done it and I believe more than ever that I can do it again.

"I think I've always had that belief. I think always believing so strongly in myself … is what make me just be at the highest level for so many years."

World No.4 Stefanos Tsitsipas may not be speaking with as firm belief as Nadal or Muguruza, but the Greek star certainly finds himself in a better position than two weeks ago. 

He endured a stop-start ATP Cup campaign, feeling the lingering effects of minor elbow surgery he underwent in late 2021.

But it was apparent on Saturday his confidence is returning.

"Feeling good with my arm, which is very nice to see. Have recovered very close to 100 per cent," said the two-time AO semifinalist, who in 2021 reached the Roland Garros final.

"My preparation is going well. I have been practicing with plenty of good players the last couple of days. The weather has been very nice, which helps a lot heading into the Australian Open.

"I have faith that it's good enough for me to compete at best-of-five sets."

Another player seeking confidence is Emma Raducanu, who, like Tsitsipas, suffered through an interrupted lead-up. 

She contracted COVID in December, and in her only match of 2022 so far, in Sydney, the reigning US Open champion managed to win only one game in a loss to Adelaide finalist Elena Rybakina.

But the British teenager is keeping things in perspective ahead of her first-round match against fellow US Open winner Sloane Stephens.

Raducanu's goal for Melbourne Park is to "just relax"

"I feel like because of the last few months I've had, maybe I haven't played as much as I would have liked to and trained so much," Raducanu said.

"I feel like there's actually no pressure on me. I feel like I'm just happy to be here and have a swing. I had to jump a few hurdles to play here. Just want to go out there and have fun and enjoy on the court.

"I need to just relax. As long as the trend is trending upwards, just a matter of small fluctuations, I think I can be proud. 

"Whatever challenge that is, I feel kind of ready to face it now."