After a couple of tough seasons due to injuries, Rafael Nadal returned at his best in 2017, winning two Major titles and becoming the world’s leading player again. Staying competitive in 2018, Nadal won five ATP titles, including Roland Garros and three Masters 1000 crowns. Still, the Spaniard struggled to remain injury-free and embrace a full calendar that year. Winning 45 out of 49 matches, Rafa skipped the last part of the season following the US Open, working hard on his game and returning stronger at the Australian Open in January 2019.
The Spaniard made significant changes in his serve and game philosophy, embracing new service motion and attacking right from the first groundstroke to gain the advantage and shorten the points. Armed with that new package in Melbourne 2019, Nadal sailed into the final after winning all 18 sets, setting the title clash against Novak Djokovic, where he stood no chance and fell in straight sets. Speaking about essential changes in his game following the semi-final victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nadal was thrilled with his performance after such a long break, hoping for more in the rest of the season and the upcoming years.
Rafael Nadal spoke about his new approach at the Australian Open 2019.
“It is very emotional for me to be back in the Australian Open semi-final. I had some troubles at this event throughout my career. After a while without being on the court, this result means everything to me, and I want to thank the crowd. It is always special to play on this court at Rod Laver Arena, and I’m thrilled with how I played tonight. After such a long break, the possibilities of playing at this level were not that high, and I feel lucky to be where I’m now after everything I went through. During the off-season, I worked on my serve and the first shot, and here in Melbourne, I have hit many winners with my forehand right after the serve; that’s very important for me.
If I want to extend my career for a few more years, I will have to find many free points and keep working on that in the future; it is a crucial element for me at this stage. I enjoy my new serve and hitting that first forehand; I used it before to prepare the point, but it is more efficient now. Carlos Moya joined my team, and he has formed a great combination with Francisco; he gives me the other view of the game, and it was essential to change some things with him on the board. We are very organized and have good preparations for the matches; we are a great team working together. I have always believed in long-time projects, even now, after having almost the same team for 20 years,” Rafael Nadal said.