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January 22, 2022

Rafael Nadal

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

R. NADAL/K. Khachanov

6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You've spoken after each win about how special it is to play. How are you feeling? Are you starting to dream you might be able to make a semi, final here, push for the title?

RAFAEL NADAL: I am just enjoying every single day, no? Today I played my best match without a doubt since I came back. That is a very positive and special thing for me.

I played here at the night session with a great crowd against a very good opponent, be able to increase my level. That match is a very positive thing, no? I'm very happy. I am enjoying every single moment.

I don't know, I don't think that far. I don't think about goals today. One month and a half I was not able sometimes to practice more than half an hour. So today I am playing. I am enjoying. Plus everybody knows I am a competitor so I going to try my best and I going to fight for my goals, of course.

But I am in a situation that every single day is a new day. A special one today. Have been a very important one for me personally. I just want to keep going. After tomorrow another chance against a very tough opponent again. Let's see what can happen.

Of course, today, as I said, toughest opponent I played since I came back. I was able to reach I think a very good level of tennis.

Q. How are you feeling? How are your legs, lungs? Was it a good test when he beat you in the third set?

RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, I think I was playing very good until that moment. I had a break point with 1-All, then 40-Love with my serve, 15-40 on the return again. Had been three critical games, no? I think I lost little bit the court I was playing.

After that I started to play a little bit too far from the baseline. I said, Okay, let's try to finish that set like this. If I am able to have the break back, fantastic. If not, on the fourth I going to start playing more aggressive again. Let's see if works. That's what I did. I think worked really well. I think I played a great fourth set.

Yeah, it's about recover all these things. You need to be quick on making the right decisions, analyze what's happening. This is something when you are not playing is something that don't come that quick sometimes.

Today I was able to analyze I think the proper way. I maked the right decisions. The quality of shots and the position on court and the movements today I think have been a very high level, no? To win against a great opponent like him, I need to play well, and I think I did.

Q. Looking ahead now, what are your thoughts on Mannarino and Karatsev?

RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, I don't know. Mannarino is playing great. I think the match against Hubert have been a surprise. He was playing at I think a very high level. To win against a player like Hubert in straight sets with that result is because you did a lot of things well. I saw a little bit of that match, he was playing well.

Today I am not able to see the match for the moment. But a match of third round between two great players, Karatsev, everybody knows how good he is. He won a tournament last week. He played very well last year here. Already won a couple of great matches here. If is Karatsev, going to be a big challenge.

Again, both of them completely different matches I think, in my opinion. Let's see. At the end today I have to try to think about what I can do and try to play as good as possible. Then let's see if that's enough. That's the goal today: be better and better. Today I think I make a big step forward. I need to keep going.

Q. How would you describe for you what the keys have been to your success specifically on hard courts over the years?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know. I think during all my tennis career I have been improving and improving in all the surfaces. That was always my goal, no, be better player in general terms.

On hard? I don't know. I think during the years I needed to adapt a little bit my game to it because I had a lot of problems, physical problems, so I needed to find a ways to be competitive and to play sometimes more aggressive because I was not able to move that fast like in the beginning.

But I think I improved my serve, I improved my return, my position on court, a little bit the understanding. I probably understand better the game on hard later in my career than in the beginning.

But I don't know. I think I played well on hard honestly. I think I have been improving, but I play well on hard since the beginning of my career. The first year I started to have success on the tour was 2005. I was able to win three tournaments on hard: Montreal, Madrid and Beijing. Masters 1000s. I think when I was healthy, I was able to compete in normal conditions.

Of course, I was not the best player on hard because for a lot of moments of my career probably Roger and Novak had been a little bit better than me on this surface, without a doubt. But I was able to compete well during all these years, was able to win a couple of very important tournaments.

Q. To clarify, were there times in November, December, during your rehab, when you thought you may not make the Australian Open? Are you surprised by how you've managed to come through this and play such a good level of tennis?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, yes, of course. First of all, I mean, everybody around me, me included, of course, but everybody around me had a lot of doubts. Not about Australian Open, no, but about coming back on the tour because the foot was bothering a lot of days.

Of course, still today are doubts because the foot, as I said the other day, is an injury we cannot fix the injury, so we need to find a way that the pain is under control to play, to keep playing. That's the goal.

Honestly I was not able to practice very often. But when I was practicing, the feeling on the ball was quite good. Have been a lot of months without competing. The movements, all this stuff, you need to recover day by day. There is no way to recover that things without competing. That's what I need, keep playing. Already three and three, so six matches on my back, and positive ones. Every day a little bit better, so happy for that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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