Rafael Nadal has every chance of winning this year’s Australian Open regardless of whether or not Novak Djokovic takes part in the tournament, according to Boris Becker. The Spaniard is among the early favourites to clinch the title in Melbourne, with his long-time rival Djokovic also widely tipped to impress if he is allowed to compete amid the ongoing controversy over the cancellation of his visa.
The Serb was detained shortly upon arrival in Australia after more detail was demanded with regards to his medical exemption to enter the country and compete in the first Grand Slam of the new year.
It was eventually ruled on Monday that his visa cancellation order would be immediately quashed and that he would be released from detention.
However, this verdict was sensationally overturned by Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke on Friday to leave Djokovic’s hopes of glory hanging in the balance.
The world No 1 was detained once again on Saturday morning ahead of his planned appeal hearing, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday.
Becker, who coached Djokovic to six Grand Slam titles between 2014 and 2016, has suggested that Nadal could be the man to end his rival’s period of dominance in Melbourne by claiming the honours once all has been said and done.
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The 54-year-old told Eurosport that Nadal could reap the rewards of competing under minimal pressure, insisting that he will be determined to move ahead of Djokovic in the all-time standings by winning a record-breaking 21st Major title.
“As long as Rafael Nadal plays tennis and gets the chance, he is never a dark horse for me, but always one of the tournament favourites,” explained Becker.
“I think that in the back of his mind he just wants to win [the French Open] again. But he has to play tournaments first, preferably a Grand Slam.”
“He has no pressure, nobody expects anything from him. The preparation was bad because of his corona illness, [but] I don’t know anyone in the main draw who would like to play Nadal in the first or second round.
“That is his nimbus – he is one of the ultimate superstars. And again, he can also get [his 21st Grand Slam title], I think that’s another reason why he’s playing in Melbourne.
“These top stars who have won so much, they wouldn’t be playing if they didn’t think they had a chance.”
Nadal endured a rocky build-up to this month’s Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19 in December but will be determined to recapture his best form when the action gets underway.
He clinched his first title since May by winning last week’s Melbourne Summer Set ATP 250 event with a straight-sets victory over Maxime Cressy in the final.
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Nadal went on to admit that he was growing tired of the fiasco surrounding Djokovic’s fate at the Australian Open, claiming that his rival will not be missed in the event of his appeal being thrown out.
“There is no one player in history that’s more important than an event,” Nadal told a press conference.
“The players stays and then goes, and other players are coming. No one, even Roger, Novak, myself, Bjorn Borg who was amazing at his times, tennis keeps going.
“The Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he’s playing finally, okay. If he’s not playing, Australian Open will be great with or without him, that’s my point of view.”