01/21 03:40 CST Nadal: A lot on his mind at Australia Open, but not No. 20
Nadal: A lot on his mind at Australia Open, but not No. 20
By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Tennis Writer
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) --- Rafael Nadal says he's thinking about his next
opponent ... and his next practice session ... and trying to recreate the
superb tennis he played in his straight-set victory in the Australian Open's
What he insists is not on his mind is the number 20 --- as in Roger Federer's
record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, which Nadal would equal by claiming the
trophy at Melbourne Park.
"I don't care about 20 or 15 or 16. 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," Nadal said Tuesday, raising his hands in the
air. "If I reach 21, better. If I (stay at) 19? Super happy about all the
things that I did in my tennis career, no?"
He must have been pleased with the way his 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 win over Hugo Dellien
That was built with a 38-15 edge in winners and breaks in eight of Dellien's 11
Nadal, at age 33 the oldest No. 1 in ATP history, owns 19 major championships,
but only one came in Australia, 11 years ago.
Twelve, of course, were collected at the French Open, four at the U.S. Open and
two at Wimbledon.
"I won the U.S. Open a few months ago, and I was super happy in that moment.
But today I'm happier than if I didn't win the U.S. Open? Probably not," Nadal
said with a hearty laugh. "The only thing I can do is put all my efforts on
(trying) to keep going the best way possible. The rest of the things, the
future will see."
ANISIMOVA'S RETURN SLAM
Fast-rising American teenager Amanda Anisimova played her first Grand Slam
match since her father, who also coached her, died last year.
His sudden passing came just before the U.S. Open, so she withdrew from that
Anisimova reached the semifinals of the French Open in 2019 at age 17, becoming
the first player born in the 2000s to get that far at a major. She was ranked
51st at the time and unseeded.
Now 18, she was seeded 21st at Melbourne Park, but was beaten 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 by
Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.
CAREER COMEBACK SLAM
Credit Fabio Fognini with a career Grand Slam of comebacks: His 3-6, 6-7 (3),
6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) rain-interrupted victory across two days against Reilly
Opelka of the U.S. gave the 12th-seeded Italian a total of eight wins in
matches after dropping the opening two sets.
And now that he's done it at the Australian Open, Fognini has a full
collection, with at least one such reversal at each of the four major
tournaments. According to the International Tennis Federation, only 11 other
men have done it at each Slam, a group that includes Roger Federer, Rod Laver
and Boris Becker, but not Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
The most famous example of an 0-2 comeback by Fognini came against Nadal at the
2015 U.S. Open. Fognini said he doesn't recall all of his turnaround victories,
but he sure does remember that one.
So does Opelka, who rued the fact that play was halted against Fognini because
of showers Monday after the initial game of the third set.
Opelka said that Nadal match wasn't really on his mind, but "if anything, it
was just more to have me prep to expect (Fognini) to want to win and believe in
himself that he can win. Clearly, he did."
GULBIS GROUNDS FAA
Felix Auger-Aliassime is considered a future star of men's tennis, a
19-year-old from Canada who was seeded 20th at the Australian Open --- and is
already out after a first-round loss against Ernests Gulbis, who once was a
young up-and-comer himself.
Back when he was in his 20s, Gulbis reached the French Open semifinals and
earned a spot in the top 10 of the ATP rankings. A series of injuries waylaid
his career, including a back problem in 2019; he entered Tuesday ranked only
256th and needed to go through qualifying just to get into the main draw.
Made the most of it, though, beating Auger-Aliassime 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
"We saw the good Gulbis today," Auger-Aliassime said.
The 31-year-old Gulbis, who is from Latvia, described himself as "emotional
when I was walking back to the locker room, because it's not easy. Its not easy
to come back. It's not easy to play Challengers. But these moments are really
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