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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Benjamin Goddard

Rafael Nadal relishing Novak Djokovic test at Australian Open after ban lifted

Rafael Nadal is relishing the prospect of rival Novak Djokovic playing at the Australian Open as the Spaniard looks to defend his Grand Slam winning record.

The 36-year-old has won just one more Grand Slam crown than Djokovic - who has been banned from playing at the Australian Open last year due to his Covid-19 anti-vaccine ethos. The Serbian, who has won the Australian Open a record nine times, had his visa cancelled and was handed a three-year ban from entering the country last year after a lengthy legal battle over entering Australia.

However, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has now overturned the ban in a move Djokovic is delighted with.

Nadal won the Australian Open for the second time in his rival's absence last year and would be forgive for rueing his return having lost twice in the competition's final to Djokovic.

"That's the best news possible, especially knowing that now the virus is more under control, around the world," Nadal said at the ATP Finals in Turin.

"Happy for him. Happy for the tournament. Happy for the fans. That's it."

Rafael Nadal is relishing the return of rival Novak Djokovic to the Australian Open (Getty Images)

A difficult end to the season on the court saw Nadal suffer injury worries and then the Spaniard hardly played before the birth of his son Rafael Nadal Perelló.

Despite losing his opening two matches at the ATP Finals the world number two responded in style beating Casper Ruud 7-5, 7-5 in his final group match to end the season on a high. Nadal is planning to spend his off-season with his young family before playing a South American exhibition tour against Ruud.

The tennis great then plans to be in Australia early ahead of the first major of 2023.

Rafael Nadal plans to arrive early in preparation for the Australian Open in January (Getty Images)

"Australia's going to be a challenge, of course, but it's the beginning of the season," added Nadal. "Hard court, I've played well there plenty of times, even if I've only won twice.

"I'm just excited to going to be there. If nothing goes wrong, I'm going to be there early. That's what I need. Even if it's an effort for me and sacrifice to go very early from home, I think that's what I need to do after what happened the last five months.

"Not only because of the preparation for Australia, but because of preparation for myself for the rest of the season."

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