Nadal wants to start afresh at 2018 Australian Open

Johanna Konta

"I know that if I get myself to the desired level of performance - mental and physical - that I can actually have a good chance to go far in the tournament".

After claiming three titles in an encouraging 2016, last season had its moments, and he showed impressive form during the "Sunshine Swing" in North America, beating Novak Djokovic twice and pushing Roger Federer to the wall in a classic final at the Masters 1000 tournament in Miami.

Five-time grand slam victor Maria Sharapova is seeded 47th and will face former champion Angelique Kerber in third round if she starts with a couple victories in Melbourne.

But the year was largely deflating, as he was bundled out early from the Grand Slams while battling hip problems through a lot of them.

"Is the first time I am here without playing official match - is new situation for me", Nadal said. It's a new situation for me.

Novak Djokovic

"I feel that I had a good week-and-a-half of practices". I can't expend too much energy, you know, on other things.

But despite slipping down the rankings and only seeded 14 at the opening Grand Slam of the year, his confidence is high and he warned he could still go far.

It saw Nadal play Austrian world number five Dominic Thiem this week on a practice court under full match conditions, with ball kids, scoreboard, and umpire.

It was the 12-time Grand Slam winner's first competitive outing since losing a Wimbledon quarter-final to Tomas Berdych last July.

"That's my feeling. We made a decision to play another match".

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Britain's sole representative Kyle Edmund will face big-serving US Open runner-up Kevin Anderson in the first round. "The job was done the right way".

Nadal's first hit out of the 2018 Australian Open will take place on Monday, when he faces Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic, who now ranks 81 in the world.

The only place he is yet to achieve the double is Australia.

"For me, the Australian Open always, if you are not 100 percent motivated to play this tournament, you probably you don't love this sport", he said.

But he knows anything can happen so early in the season, despite being the top ranked player in the world.

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"But everyone starts from zero. Here we are to try my best, try to see if I am able to start".

"But hopefully I can improve that this year".

Nadal's uncle Toni Nadal has been with the Spanish ever since he began to play tennis but this Australian Open will be slightly different.

Toni Nadal is now coaching at the Rafael Nadal Academy, with his nephew under the tutelage of Carlos Moya.

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