Nadal upbeat over fitness
Rafael Nadal feels more confident than he has done for a while that he is fit enough to challenge for success away from the clay courts of Europe.
The 30-year-old 14-time Grand Slam champion has suffered with knee problems for large parts of the last couple of years, but Nadal believes that he is finally back in the sort of condition which could see him challenge on hardcourts.
With the Australian Open a matter of weeks away, 2009 Melbourne champion Nadal told The National: "I feel healthy, that's the most important thing.
"I feel that my knees are not suffering now and hopefully it will keep going like this. That's why I am able to not (only) play on clay. I can work again on things that I did not work on over the last couple of years because the knees didn't allow me.
"I have been able to do it during this off-season and that is something, I expect, can bring me really positive results."
Nadal's last Grand Slam success came at the French Open in 2014, while his only non-clay major victory since 2010 came at the US Open three years ago.
He lost in the final of the Australian Open in both 2012 and 2014, before losing in the quarter-finals two years ago.
Twelve months ago he was ousted in the first round in Melbourne, losing in a five-set thriller to fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.
Nadal can be backed at 14/1 to win the Australian Open for a second time in 2017, with Stan Wawrinka priced at 12/1 and world number one Andy Murray available at 13/8.
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