MELBOURNE (AFP): Rafael Nadal pronounced himself fit and ready Sunday to produce some magic to entertain tennis fans around the world as they cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Spanish great, who can move past the injured Roger Federer's 20 Grand Slam titles with victory at the Australian Open beginning February 8, kicks off his season representing Spain at the ATP Cup from Tuesday.
He will take to the courts of Melbourne Park after completing 14 days of quarantine in Adelaide, where he was allowed to train for up to five hours a day before an exhibition on Friday against US Open champion Dominic Thiem.
“I just want to congratulate the country for an amazing effort… to contain the virus here. It’s one of the best examples in the world about how to do the things well in this particular case. We appreciate so much the effort that the country and Tennis Australia have done to allow us to be here and play our sport.”
"For me personally, preparation has been positive," said Nadal.
"I have been able to practise around two hours per day in Adelaide. Some days a little bit more, two hours 15, two hours 20. That's it.
"I did, I think, the things that I had to do to be ready. Now is the moment to start playing and practising with other colleagues and let's see what's going on."
Most players are now out of quarantine and the world number two is keen to get the focus back on tennis, although his thoughts are with those in lockdowns around the world.
"When we arrived here, we have this quarantine. But I think that's over. Is the moment to start talking about tennis," he said.
"That's why we came here: to play tennis, to try to give to the fans around the world and to the fans here in Australia.
"For some of the people who are suffering a lot at home, we try to have good entertainment for them. The only way to make that happen is to go on court, try our best."
He leads Spain in the ATP Cup, desperate to make amends after being beaten in the final at Sydney last year by Novak Djokovic's Serbia.
Nadal, who doesn't usually play the week before a Grand Slam, said it was a different experience this year, with the tournament cut to 12 teams from 24 and all games in Melbourne immediately before the Australian Open.
"It's a very unusual situation for most of us. Most of you that are around tennis know I never play the week before a Grand Slam," he said.
"So is a little bit new and is a strange situation. But here I am, the same like the rest of the team, to try our best in every moment.
"Because we are a team, and a good team, with great players, we have different options. Everybody's ready to play, and to play with very competitive level."
Spain start their campaign against home nation Australia, who are without Nick Kyrgios but led by the in-form Alex De Minaur, who won the season-opening Antalya Open this month.
The two teams met in the ATP Cup last year with De Minaur pushing Nadal hard in an engrossing three-setter.
"It was an emotional match, not great for me, but emotional one," Nadal said of that clash.
"He's young, he's improving every year. I think it's going to be a tough battle for all of us playing against a great team like Australia."
Rafael Nadal wants to play at the Olympics but he said fitting more quarantining into the ATP Tour calendar looked "difficult". After being postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Games are scheduled to start in Tokyo on July 23.
Nadal, an Olympic gold medallist in singles and doubles in 2008 and 2016 respectively, said he would listen to the experts, but acknowledged quarantining could be tough.
"It's the same as always. I am nobody to have a clear opinion on that. I am just a tennis player, a human person that doesn't have enough knowledge about all the situation."
"What we have to do is just follow the instructions of what the people who really have the right knowledge of all this stuff give to us. What's going to happen in Tokyo for the Olympics, if the Olympics are going to happen or not, or if we have to do quarantine before Olympics for 15 days or not, seems like a sports perspective very difficult because it's difficult for us, I don't know, combining our Tour with another 15 days of quarantine to play Olympics. It looks difficult to fix it in our calendar.
"But, as I said, we're going to do what the people who know about virus and who know about protecting the people in every single country, we are going to just follow their instructions."
Asked if his intention was to go, Nadal said: "I think everybody wants to play in Olympic Games, then let's see what's going on."