Rafael Nadal is on the verge of missing his second Australian Open in three seasons after losing 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 against Michael Berrer in a prep tournament in Qatar Tuesday, the world No. 3 admitted to reporters after the match.
“This is the third comeback of my career after injury, so we will see how it goes in a couple of months,” Nadal said, per Richard Eaton of The Telegraph. “I wanted to start well, but it was not the case today. I also want to play in the Australian Open, which is a tournament I like a lot. I don’t know if that will be the case either, but I am going to work for it."
Nadal has been held to limited action in recent months due to myriad ailments, most notably a wrist injury and appendicitis. He did not play on the ATP World Tour after a Swiss Indoors loss in October and has been slowly working his way back into form.
The Qatar Open was supposed to be a major step in getting him ready to compete in Melbourne. Players are expected in the Australian capital beginning Jan. 19, which leaves Nadal less than two weeks to ready his body for a deep run. Nadal, who will almost certainly play if health permits, seemed resigned that his trip to Australia (if made) will be a short one.
“Now in my mind I have to practice well and try to be ready for Australia, but I know it can happen that I will go there and lose," Nadal said, per Eaton. "Perhaps I will win a couple of matches there, I don’t know.”
Nadal missed the 2013 Australian Open while recovering from a knee injury. If he's forced to sit out in Melbourne, it'll be the third time he's missed the event overall—the most of any other Grand Slam championship.
When in the field, Nadal's been a bastion of success Down Under. He's made the finals in each of his last two appearances (2012 and 2014) and hasn't been eliminated before the quarterfinals since 2005.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter