Monday, 3 January 2011

Rafael Nadal feeling no pressure over 'Rafa-Slam'

Courtesy: SydneyMorningHerald

The feat is so difficult that it's been more than 41 years since any man achieved it but Rafael Nadal insists he feels no extra pressure.

The 24-year-old Spaniard says he feels only added excitement as he eyes this month's Australian Open, where he'll attempt to become the first man to win four major titles in a row since Rod Laver pulled off his second calendar Grand Slam in 1969.

Twice Nadal has prevented his great rival Roger Federer achieving the same feat, stopping him at the very last hurdle in the French Open final in 2007 and 2007.

The four-in-a-row chance is Nadal's and world No.2 Federer, the defending Australian Open champion, looms as the big stumbling block as the Swiss attempts to add to his record tally of 16 major titles.

The pair square off in this week's Qatar Open in Doha but won't be sighted in competition in Australia until the Open gets underway in Melbourne on January 17.

"It's not extra pressure, for me it's extra motivation," said Nadal of the chance to achieve a "Rafa Slam" by adding the Australian Open title to his consecutive successes at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open last year.

"The pressure is everyday to play well and keep winning matches and I don't think (about) winning (the) Australian Open immediately," Nadal said.

"You never know what's going to happen since it's going to be a very difficult tournament."

For Nadal, staying healthy will be his top priority. He still grimaces at the memories of last year's Australian Open - where he retired from his quarter-final with injury, the lone blemish on his 25-1 Grand Slam record in 2010.

"Health. That's the most important thing. For myself and everybody that's the most important thing," Nadal said.

"Without that, the rest of the things are just impossible."

Between them Nadal and Federer have won 21 of the past 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

The 29-year-old Federer will be looking to bounce back from the string of Grand Slam defeats which followed his triumph at Melbourne Park last year, but can draw on his victory over Nadal in the final of the World Tour Finals to claim his fifth year-end crown.

"It's a special Australian Open with me being the defending champion," Federer said.

"Obviously the focus is going to be on the two of us.

"Tennis is really going to be exciting down in Australia."

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