World No.1 Rafael Nadal knows his chequered Australian Open history could soon include another unhappy chapter if he can’t produce his best against Australia’s Bernard Tomic.
The Open is the one major the Spaniard hasn’t won at least twice, his only Melbourne Park triumph coming in 2009.
Nadal missed the 2006 tournament through injury and his body also failed him in three of the past four years.
In 2010, he was forced to retire injured during a quarter-final, a year later he was injured during the semi-finals and limped his way to defeat, while last year a knee injury kept him out altogether.
In between, he lost a marathon 2012 final against Novak Djokovic that lasted just shy of six hours.
The reigning French and US Open champion admits there was a hint of more Melbourne Park misfortune when he learnt he would meet Tomic in this year’s first round.
“It is not the best (way) I know to start a grand slam – playing against a player who is local and who is young, who played great in the past here and who is playing well,” Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
“He’s in the final of Sydney. It’s a tough start.”
Nadal and Tomic have met just once before, with the Spaniard victorious in straight sets in the third round of the 2011 Open.
But the top seed is sure the 21-year-old Australian has improved since.
“He has a big talent, he has a good serve, he’s able to play with very good control from the baseline, he has very good (anticipation) of where you are going to hit the ball,” Nadal said.
“To (make it) through in that first round will be because I’m ready to compete well.
“If not, I’m going to be ready to be practising at home. That’s all.”
Nadal, coming off a tournament win in Doha, said he was entering the Open injury-free, but added that had also been the case in past years when he sustained injuries during the event.
He was confident of receiving a warm crowd reception, despite playing an Australian.
“I played against Lleyton (Hewitt) here a few times, the Australian crowd is one of the best,” Nadal said.