• Nadal won the Australian Open last year
  • Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia due to his unvaccinated status
  • Australian Open is scheduled to begin on Jan. 16

Former World No. 1 ATP star Mats Wilander has predicted that Rafael Nadal is going to be an "absolute animal" at the upcoming Australian Open 2023.

Nadal won the calendar opening Grand Slam last year in Melbourne before clinching the Roland Garros as well. With that, Nadal took his major titles tally to 22.

Novak Djokovic, who was deported from Australia for being unvaccinated against COVID-19, cut down the Grand Slam titles deficit by lifting his 21st major title later in the year with his victory at the Wimbledon Championships.

Nadal's record-breaking victory at the Australian Open, which took him ahead of Roger Federer in the major titles race, also made him only the third man, after Djokovic and Rod Laver, to win all the Majors at least twice. Federer, who recently retired from professional tennis, ended his decorated career with 20 Grand Slam titles, but that included just one French Open trophy.

Ahead of the upcoming edition of the Melbourne Grand Slam, Wilander, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, pointed out that Nadal now has the ability to win on different surfaces and venues.

"Having won there for the second time for someone like him, now he has won all of the Majors twice or more, that's massive. That's where he separates himself from the great Roger Federer, who only won one French Open. So Rafa now knows how to win in all the different venues," Wilander, who won the Australian Open thrice, said in an interview.

Nadal had started the 2022 season by registering his personal best record of 21 consecutive victories, winning three titles in the course, including the Australian Open. The Spanish legend went on to end the year with four titles and a year-end ATP ranking of No. 2.

"He just has to get there healthy. He's going to be an absolute animal and I'm sure that he is going to play his best tennis. He has a big chance to win the Australian Open, as he does the French Open," added Wilander.

Spain's Rafael Nadal with 22 titles has more Grand Slams than any other player in the history of the men's game

World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz has withdrawn from the Australian Open, meaning, Nadal is set to enter the Melbourne event as the top seed. The 36-year-old southpaw recently competed in the United Cup with Spain, but failed to win a match. He lost to Great Britain's Cameron Norrie and Australia's Alex de Minaur, in three sets on both occasions.

Australian Open is scheduled to begin on Jan. 16 at Melbourne Park with the final to be played on Jan. 29.