Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 July 2020

Australian Open: Rafael Nadal 'doesn't care' about Roger Federer's Grand Slam record

Top seed and fifth seed produce comfortable straight sets wins at Melbourne Park

Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after beating Hugo Dellien in the first round of the Australian Open. Getty Images
Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after beating Hugo Dellien in the first round of the Australian Open. Getty Images

Rafael Nadal says he is prioritising longevity over Grand Slam records after the Australian Open top seed took a step closer to equalling Roger Federer's unprecedented haul of 20 titles on Tuesday.

Nadal, with 19 major titles, opened his campaign at Melbourne Park in style on Tuesday, hammering unseeded Bolivian Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-3 6-0 at a sunbathed Rod Laver Arena.

At 33, the reigning French and US Open champion remains at the top of his game and even if he fails to win a 20th Grand Slam in Melbourne he will be heavily backed to do it at Roland Garros, where he has triumphed 12 times in the last 15 editions.

Nadal, however, said he was only focused on Wednesday's practice before his next match.

"If I am able to reach my highest level, that's the thing that I have to worry about," Nadal told reporters after setting up a clash with either Federico Delbonis or Joao Sousa.

"If I am able to play at my highest level, normally I am able to produce some good chances. If not, impossible.

"So, I don't care about 20 or 15 or 16 [Grand Slam titles]. I just care about trying to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career.

"It's not like 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic. If I reach 21, better. If I reach 19, super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career.

"I don't think in the future ... achieving 21 Grand Slams, for example, I'm going to be happier than if I [have] 19 in 10 years."

Nadal claimed his only Australian Open title in 2009, when he beat Federer in the final and left the Swiss in tears.

He has since lost four times in the Melbourne title-decider, including last year's straight sets trouncing by Novak Djokovic and the 2017 final against Federer.

Djokovic, third on the men's all-time list with 16 Grand Slam trophies, also had Nadal's measure in the 2012 final, a nearly six-hour epic, but the Spaniard was unlucky to suffer an injury in the 2014 decider against Stan Wawrinka.

"I went through a couple of things, more than in New York honestly," Nadal, a four-times U.S. Open champion, said when asked about his relatively lean Australian Open record.

"But I don't know. Maybe the conditions are better for me in New York than here. That's the only reason that I can find."

World No Dominic Thiem also cruised into the Australian Open second round Tuesday, with his confidence growing as he targets a Grand Slam breakthrough.

The Austrian brushed aside Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena and said he was determined to get as many wins as possible at a tournament where he has never gone past the fourth round.

"It is always really hard against Adrian, he is a very talented player so I'm very happy to be in the second round," said the 26-year-old, who won five titles last year and was runner-up at the ATP Finals.

"It's early in the season and I haven't played many matches but every win gives me confidence."

Thiem is among a clutch of players tipped to win a Grand Slam having reached the last two Roland Garros finals, losing twice to Rafael Nadal.

He has added 1995 French Open champion and former world number one Thomas Muster to his team as an advisor this season and is hoping his fellow Austrian will help him take the next step.

"He just started three weeks ago," he said of Muster. "It is an amazing addition to my team, he is the greatest player ever from our country.

"He has so much experience and he can help me a lot."

Updated: January 21, 2020 12:42 PM

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