Rafael Nadal doubts that he will win the Australian Open
Rafael Nadal has made the astonishing admission that he does not believe he will win the Australian Open, as he continues to nurse his way back to top form.
Nadal finished the 2011 season feeling mentally and physically and exhausted. On top of that, he developed a sore left shoulder which continues to affect his game.
With the year's first grand slam set to commence on January 16, spotlight will be on Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to see how each man is coping with his respective problems. Djokovic is the defending champion, and he arguably appears to be in the best physical state out of the three heading to Melbourne.
Certainly Nadal's 2012 campaign got off to a less than impressive opening, losing his Qatar Open semi-final in straight sets to Gael Monfils. The usual zip on his ground strokes was non-existent, and the Spaniard did not seem to be enjoying himself on court.
Nadal insists he is currently in the midst of a process to rediscover his best form, and while he claims to be in a far better place mentally, he admits he is not 100 per cent confident of his chances at the Australian Open.
"I know I am working well, with a much more positive attitude than I had during the second half of last season, especially in the final stretch," Nadal told Sport.
"I see myself capable of having a good tournament but you never know. I am happy with the level of my game, of how I am doing things and I think I am sowing seeds that will bear fruit. But maybe not in Australia."
The rigours of a full tennis season clearly got to Nadal last year, and the former world No. 1 made no effort to disguise it. Heading into a new calendar, he is convinced there is one aspect of his game that he must protect better than in the last 12 months.
"Mental, and in some moments also physical fatigue, but mainly mental," said Nadal. "In some moments the season was a bit heavy for me. It is many years of a routine, of maximum intensity every week.
"When a new season starts, everything is different. At least you have to do everything in your reach to make it so."