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Nadal ready for Australian Open challenge

sports Updated: Jan 17, 2009 14:47 IST
Greg Stutchbury
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A lack of match practice and two months off recuperating from tendinitis in his knee should not affect his attempts to win his first Australian Open title, top seed Rafael Nadal said on Saturday.

Nadal, who ended Roger Federer's 237-week stranglehold on the world's top ranking last August, finished his 2008 season by withdrawing from the Paris Masters in October.

He missed the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai last November and Spain's Davis Cup victory and has played just three competitive matches in 2009, at Doha where he lost in the quarter-finals.

"I was for two months outside of competition, so maybe I need a little bit more matches for (me to) get the rhythm," Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park.

"The tournament is very early in January. (It) seems like you arrive here without knowing exactly how you are.

"You only have one week before, the one tournament before. If you win the tournament, you know you are playing well.

"I am practising well but I don't have a lot of matches to know exactly how I am.

"But I am okay. I will try my best to be ready for Tuesday. Just try my best every match and expect (to) find my best performance."

Nadal also pointed to his potential semi-final opponent, in-form British fourth seed Andy Murray, as the player most likely to scupper his title aspirations in Melbourne.

"He's playing well. He's playing good tennis, with confidence," Nadal said.

"He started the season very well, winning in Doha. He finished the 2008 season playing well.

"When you win Cincinnati, when you win Madrid, when you win Doha playing against Federer, playing against Roddick, you are ready to win a grand slam.

"So, if he plays well, he can win here."