Australian Open 2021: 'Never seen that before' - Wilander on Rafael Nadal change, explains injuries
Rafael Nadal, in pursuit of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title, brushed aside Laslo Djere in straight sets to secure his place in the second round of the 2021 Australian Open. Mats Wilander has told Eurosport that Nadal's famous intensity could be behind his injury struggles early in the season and also spotted an interesting change in his game.
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory over Laslo Djere of Serbia during day two of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 09, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.
There had been concerns about the Spaniard's back problems coming into the match, but he came through in impressive fashion nonetheless.
"He [Nadal] played incredibly aggressively and it was a really good showing," was Eurosport expert Mats Wilander's verdict after the match.
Nadal injuries caused by 'pushing himself to limit' - Wilander
"His play has been extremely aggressive and he was playing very quickly, something he has been trying to do lately in his career to try and shorten the points as much as possible."
Wilander also noted that Nadal's huge, flat backhand was even more destructive than his famously powerful forehand - "the first time I've seen that."
He has been hitting his backhand harder than his forehand, and that is incredible!
"He's hitting it harder on the backhand side than on the forehand, and part of that is Nadal wanting to shorten points; the courts are quicker so he doesn't have time to run around and hit forehands. So he needs to hit flat backhands."
Highlights | Laslo Djere - Rafael Nadal
Nadal will next take on either Serbia's Viktor Troicki or Michael Mmoh in the second round, and he did not hide his concerns with his back after the match. Wilander provided analysis on the Spaniard's track record of sustaining injuries early in the season.
"His past injury issues ahead of the Australian Open could come from the fact that he has to work on hard courts for a couple of months getting ready for Australia, that’s the first thing," he said in Eurosport's Cube.
"You would think he would be more injured during the clay-court season because he plays so many more matches, we know Nadal likes to play a lot of matches, likes to get his confidence.
"Maybe when he trains, I can see also that he pushes himself harder because he needs that confidence and he needs to be out there. We have seen him during tournaments hitting ball after ball after ball and the other players don’t do that – he works really hard, even during majors.
It could be a combination of hard courts and practising; he needs more repetition and pushes himself hard. This is Rafa Nadal, this is what he has done throughout his whole career and he is going to push himself to the limit.
Nadal flashes stunning winner down the line
Fellow Eurosport expert Alex Corretja added: "I wasn’t sure which Rafa to expect because we haven’t seen him play for so long.
"I was very impressed by the fact he was playing very aggressive from the very beginning, trying to shorten the points and rallies. He played flatter than normally, the court is playing quite fast and that’s why he is trying to faster.
"It was a good match for Rafa to have to get that feeling of being back on court – he hasn’t played any official match this year, he didn’t play the ATP Cup last week due to the back injury so he needed this kind of feeling on court. I think he should be very pleased with this performance."
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