Nadal laughs off the pressure as he prepares for mission impossible

History is beckoning but Rafael Nadal is not paying attention. The prospect of the 24-year-old Spaniard becoming only the third man ever to hold all four Grand Slam titles is the talk of this year's Australian Open, which begins tomorrow, but Nadal himself insists that he feels under no more pressure than normal.

"This may be the only opportunity in my career to do this, but that's not the reason I will feel any pressure here," he said yesterday. "The pressure is just the same at every Grand Slam event. You want to play well in the important tournaments. Whether I win a fourth Grand Slam in a row is not something that's on my mind. What's on my mind is trying to play well, trying to start the season playing well. Then we will see what's going on."

Nadal said he considered the task of winning four Grand Slams in a row to be "almost impossible". Asked how special it would be, he replied: "I think it's better if we continue with another question. Seriously, I can't answer this because I haven't thought about it. If it does happen, I'm sure that I will be more happy at winning here because it's the Australian Open rather than because it's the fourth Grand Slam title in a row."

While most commentators regard Nadal as the favourite to win here, he has not had the best of starts to the year. He barely had a break during the off-season and was suffering from a virus during his first tournament at the Qatar Open. He said he had been feeling better since arriving in Australia but could not be sure how he would feel once he started playing matches.

"After what I had in Doha, I've felt a little bit more tired than usual when I've been practising and I've been sweating more than ever," he said. "I'm feeling better, but I don't think I'm perfect."

The world No 1 has already won the Australian Open once, having beaten Roger Federer in the final two years ago, and finds the hard courts here easier than those in New York, where he won the US Open for the first time last September. "You can put a little bit more topspin on the ball here and the courts are a little bit slower," he said. "But I am seriously starting to wonder whether it's better for me to play on faster or slower courts."

What areas of his game would Nadal hope to work on this year? "Everything," he said. "My serve can still improve a lot. I think I am serving better, but it's never going to be enough. You can play more aggressively. You can play more inside the court. You can go more times to the net. You can return a little bit more aggressively. You can play longer. You can play closer to the lines.

"In tennis you can improve all your career. That is something I've always tried to do when I wake up every morning and go to practise. My goal is to improve – not to just go to practise. That's why I am here. If some day I lost that feeling, maybe I wouldn't come back to this tournament."

Nadal is already one of only seven men to have won all four of the major titles in tennis, but Don Budge and Rod Laver are the only players who have held all four at the same time. While most traditionalists insist that only winning all four in the same year can be regarded as a Grand Slam, the constitution of the International Tennis Federation, the sport's governing body, says that simply holding the four titles at the same time is good enough.

When Federer was asked for his opinion on the debate, the Swiss said that it would be "amazing" if Nadal held all four titles, although he added: "It's very close, but it's not the calendar Grand Slam."

Andy Murray, however, rejected any idea that if Nadal won four in a row it should be regarded as a lesser feat because the tournaments spanned two seasons. "I think holding four Grand Slams is one of the best achievements in sport," he said, before adding with a smile: "And I really hope he doesn't do it."

Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living