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February 26, 2021

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Rafael Nadal reacts to ‘strange’ Novak Djokovic win and gives injury update

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Nadal’s injury improved on Saturday (Picture: Getty)

Rafael Nadal booked his spot in the last-16 of the Australian Open with a win over Cameron Norrie but said the ‘biggest victory’ came from the improvements in his back.

Nadal, the second seed from Spain, enjoyed a solid win against the British No. 3, winning 7-5 6-2 7-5 on an empty Rod Laver Arena.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion was the overwhelming favourite to move into the last-16, despite having been plagued with a back injury during the tournament so far.

But he revealed that he had started making progress with the issue and he was able to serve closer to his normal level in Saturday’s victory.

‘No, the back was not getting better each day. Was getting better today,’ smiled Nadal.

‘But today is better, yeah. First day I feel an improvement, and that’s the most important thing for me today, more than any other thing.

Norrie was beaten in straight sets (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I was not serving my normal serve for the last 15 days. Today is the first day that I started to serve again my normal serve.

‘But yesterday I didn’t practice, so today just warming up with the new, with the normal movement. So of course I didn’t serve bad, but I can do better, I think. And I’m looking forward to do it better, no?

‘Have been an important victory for me. The biggest victory is the back is better for the first day. So that’s the most important thing.’

While Nadal’s injury has improved, his great rival Novak Djokovic faces an anxious wait over his condition.

Eight-time champion Djokovic looked in complete control against Taylor Fritz, the 27th seed from the United States, but an injury in his abdominal area saw him let a two-set lead slip.

Djokovic eventually recovered to win the fifth set comfortably, although he insisted he was a doubt for his last-16 tie with big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, and Nadal admitted it was a ‘strange match’.

‘I don’t like to have a lot of opinions on other matches, no? Anyone has his personal feelings,’ said Nadal.

‘Of course have been a very strange match. But I can’t have an opinion, because I don’t know what’s he’s feeling because for two sets looks like he’s going to retire and then in the fifth I think he played quite normal a lot of points.

Djokovic struggled with injury (Picture: Getty)

‘I don’t know. A strange feeling for me like a spectator. But that’s it. He found a way to win, so well done.’

For Norrie, there were positives to take from running the second seed close in two of the three sets played but there was a sense of disappointment that he didn’t take advantage of good positions he found himself in.

‘It definitely gives me a lot of confidence that I could play close, but it was a bit frustrating,’ said Norrie.

‘I mean, there was a lot of, especially in that first set I had a lot of chances, and, yeah, just a couple loose points and a couple of errors and that can cost him, and he didn’t make those and I did. That was that set. And then again in the second set, as well.

‘Yeah, a lot of positives to take and a lot of things that I want to get better at and a lot of stuff I want to tidy up in my game.

‘But, yeah, I think I want more from myself. Yeah, it was obviously tough to play him, but, yeah, it was a good experience altogether.’

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