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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal confirms he will play the 2021 Australian Open—whenever it's played—as he aims for a record-extending 21st Grand Slam championship.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Count on Rafael Nadal playing the 2021 Australian Open.

The king of clay will play for a men's record-extending 21st Grand Slam championship at the Melbourne major. Nadal's manager, Benito Pérez-Barbadillo, confirmed his participation in the 2021 AO to The Age.

More: Update on Revised ATP 2021 Calendar

"Rafa is confirmed he is travelling to Melbourne and playing in the Australian Open," Pérez-Barbadillo told The Age.

The second-ranked Spaniard swept world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 soaring to his 13th Roland Garros championship in October. Nadal, who opted out of defending his US Open title in New York, made history in Paris matching Roger Federer’s major mark seizing his record-tying 20th Grand Slam championship in stirring style.

Nadal's confirmation is a big boost for the Melbourne major coming a day after Federer cast serious doubt on his participation in Melbourne calling it "a race against time."

Six-time Australian Open champion Federer, who underwent a pair of arthroscopic surgeries to his right knee this year, said his surgically-repaired knee is not yet ready for the rigors of Grand Slam play.

"I'd love to be in Australia, but it'll be very fair to my knee," Federer said. "I had hoped to be 100 percent of my means as early as October, but unfortunately this was not the case and it is still not the case today. I don't want to take the next step until I'm ready. I won't play again until I feel 100 percent...

"My goals are in the summer, with Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open."

The 39-year-old Swiss superstar left the door slightly open to possibly playing his 22nd consecutive Australian Open if the tournament is pushed back.

The Australian Open, originally scheduled for January 18th, is expected to be moved back to February 8th, which would give the former world No. 1 more time to recover.

"Let's see how the next two months unfold," Federer said. "It’s a race against time. I’m curious to see whether it will start on February 8th.

"Of course, it would help if I had a bit more time."

The Big 3 all played prominent roles at the 2020 Australian Open.

Federer advanced to his record-extending 15th Australian Open semifinal bowing to Djokovic, who rallied from a two-sets to one deficit in the final to defeat Dominic Thiem and win his record-extending eighth AO championship.

It was Djokovic's 17th major title as the Serbian regained the world No. 1 ranking.

Thiem out-dueled Nadal 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6) to earn his first Australian Open semifinal spot with his first win in six major meetings vs. Nadal.

The 2021 AO will be Nadal's 16th career Melbourne appearance.

A five-time AO finalist, the top-ranked Nadal won his lone Australian Open title in 2009 fighting off Fernando Verdasco in a five-hour semifinal and Federer in a gripping five-set final.


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