Ahead of their ATP Cup blockbuster rematch, world no. 2 Rafael Nadal has lavished praise on Australia's Alex de Minaur.
In the inaugural edition of last year's tournament, De Minaur was just a couple of points away from rolling Nadal in straight sets until the experience of the Spaniard saw him dig in and run away with the match in a sensational comeback.
While Nadal conceded it wasn't his best showing, he had nothing but praise for the Aussie talent who just recently kicked-off his 2021 by winning the season-opening Antalya Open this month.
"It was an emotional match, not great for me, but an emotional one," Nadal recalled.
"He [de Minaur] is young and he's improving every year.
"He does a lot of things amazing and I think it will be a tough battle for all of us, playing against a tough team such as Australia. Let's see if we are able to get ready for it."
The second-edition of the ATP Cup will mark a peculiar milestone in Nadal's illustrious career.
In his 20-years on tour the Spaniard has made a habit of not playing in the week prior to a grand slam.
However, with this year's scheduling of the Australian summer of tennis affected due to the global pandemic, the world No.2 has been left with no choice but to get some much-needed match time ahead of next Monday's grand slam.
"It's a little bit new and a strange situation but here I am. The same as the rest of the team. I'm trying my best in every moment and because we are a team – and a good team with great players – we have different options," Nadal said.
"Everybody is ready to play and to play at a very competitive level. Let's see what the captain decides and how the circumstances evolve over the next couple of days."
Meanwhile, de Minaur was relishing the opportunity to perform in front of a home crowd after recently completing his 14-day mandatory quarantine since arriving back from Turkey.
"I started off the year really well. Now we've had a couple weeks during quarantine to kind of prepare and look at different aspects of my game to kind of tweak, get ready for the Australian summer of tennis," de Minaur said.
"I'm very happy with the job we've put in as a team throughout the pre-season and now these last couple weeks. I feel like I'm ready.
"I'm really looking forward to going out there and stepping out on court and competing in Australia. It's been a long time coming so I'm very pumped, that's for sure."