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Rafael Nadal ‘didn’t believe’ he could beat Novak Djokovic and almost ditched Aus Open

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Rafael Nadal‘s uncle has revealed the tennis icon doubted whether to travel to Melbourne for the Australian Open just days before the tournament began. Toni Nadal has suggested the record-chasing Spaniard lacked the belief that he could win the first Grand Slam of the season, with Novak Djokovic still set to compete at that point.

Nadal has performed admirably at Melbourne Park so far this month and will face world No 7 Matteo Berrettini in the semi-finals on Friday.

On his way to Tuesday’s quarter-finals, he dropped just one set in total against Marcos Giron, Yannick Hanfmann, Karen Khachanov and Adrian Mannarino.

But he had to battle hard for a place in the final four against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.

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Nadal lost a two-set lead, and the momentum was on Shapovalov’s side, but the 35-year-old found a level to claim the deciding set 6-3.

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His inspired displays Down Under might not have come to fruition, though, based on Toni’s recent revelation about his mindset ahead of the Australian Open.

He told Cadena SER: “I’m surprised [by Rafa’s form]. Because, I remember when three days before [leaving for Australia], Rafa called my youngest son to hit a few balls after being quarantined due to coronavirus.

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“At nine o’clock, we went to train, and during training, he said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to go or not because at the moment I’m not in condition for the Australian Open’.

“He only had three days to get a flight. The following day, he perked up and said, ‘Okay, come on, I’m going’. I think it was more the excitement of competing and returning to competition than believing in himself.”

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Nadal was the bookies’ favourite to win a fifth consecutive French Open title last summer, but Djokovic defeated him in the semi-finals on his way to a second triumph at Rolland Garros.

The remainder of the world number five’s 2021 season was plagued by injury, and the Australian Open is his first Grand Slam since.

Despite feeling like he wasn’t in a suitable condition to compete in Melbourne, Nadal has thrilled crowds and is the second favourite to win behind Daniil Medvedev.

If Nadal lifts the Australian Open title, it wouldn’t only be his first triumph at the tournament since 2009.

But it would also be his 21st career Grand Slam, edging him past Djokovic and Roger Federer.

It would also mean he joins Djokovic in securing the Double Career Grand Slam by winning all four majors at least twice.

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