World No.1 Rafael Nadal has landed in Perth, with his Australian Open tormentor Novak Djokovic arriving the same day in Brisbane as the pair get ready to clash over the summer.
Nadal said equalling Roger Federer’s 20 grand slam record isn’t at the forefront of his thinking just yet, but the 33-year-old knows that this year in Melbourne could be his chance.
Nadal’s first goal is to acclimatise to Australian conditions to give reigning Davis Cup champions and pre-tournament favourites Spain the best shot possible of winning the inaugural 24-nation ATP Cup.
“Hopefully we arrive in good shape. We have five days to practice well before the competition,” Nadal said.
“We are looking forward to play good here in the ATP Cup and then we are going to have one week in Melbourne before the (Open) to start to prepare.
“We are excited to be here and to compete well at this great event.”
Nadal’s only Australian Open victory was over Federer in 2009.
But he has been agonisingly close several times since, losing the decider in 2019 to Novak Djokovic, in 2017 to Federer, in 2014 to Stan Wawrinka and in 2012 to Djokovic.
Djokovic said in Brisbane Monday he is ready to resume his “love affair” with Australia.
The world No.2 is a clear favourite to win a record eighth Australian Open next month in Melbourne but first he’ll wear Serbian colours in the inaugural ATP Cup from January 3.
Serbia will meet France, Chile and South Africa in their pool while Australia, Canada, Greece and Germany will also feature in Brisbane before a finals series in Sydney.
Djokovic arrived in Brisbane on Monday morning happy to talk up the new concept in a country that’s proved to be a happy hunting ground.
“I love it. I’ve had an amazing 10 years in Australia going back to the first grand slam I won in Melbourne in 2008,” he said.
“And ever since then it’s been a love affair.
I think it’s great for our sport that we have an innovation introduced in a country that loves tennis.”
The French team will be led by world No.10 Gael Monfils, while South African Kevin Anderson was as high as No.5 in the world earlier this year.
“It has an element of individual tournament but it’s combined with a team concept and I love wearing the colours of our country and hopefully we can have good support and have a lot of fun,” Djokovic said.
Nadal will spearhead Spain in Perth against Japan, Georgia and Uruguay while Nick Kyrgios and Alex De Minaur will play for Australia in Brisbane.
Teams will play just two singles and one doubles rubber in each tie.
Nadal never competed at the now-defunct Hopman Cup and is looking forward to seeing Perth for the first time.
“I have been to Brisbane a couple of times (as a warm-up to the Australian Open). This time Perth. I am excited to know a different place,” he said.
AUSTRALIAN SUMMER OF TENNIS
ATP Cup, Brisbane and Perth, Jan 3-8; Sydney, Jan 3-12
Prize money: $US15 million ($A22.27 million)
Drawcards: Novak Djokovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Alex de Minaur, Nick Kyrgios, Denis Shapovalov (Brisbane), Rafael Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut, Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, Daniil Medvedev (Perth), Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin (Sydney)
Brisbane International, Jan 6-12
Prize money: $2.23 million
Drawcards: Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova, Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, Samantha Stosur, Ajla Tomljanovic
Adelaide International, Jan 11-18
Prize money: $2.06 million
Drawcards: Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Kiki Bertens, Johanna Konta, Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske, Sloane Stephens, Danielle Collins
Hobart International, Jan 13-18
Prize money: $374,000
Drawcards: Elise Mertens, Alize Cornet, Caroline Garcia, Elena Rybakina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Samantha Stosur
Australian Open, Melbourne, Jan 20-Feb 2
Prize money: $71 million
Drawcards: Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep, Bianca Andreescu, Elina Svitolina, Petra Kvitova, Belinda Bencic, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Stan Wawrinka, Alex de Minaur, Nick Kyrgios