For the first time in his career, the 16-time grand slam champion will head into the year's opening major without playing a competitive match in the lead-up. He will also be without uncle Toni by his side.
That's two major shake-ups for the 31-year-old, famously known as a creature of habit. "So I'm really looking forward to trying out my new serve!"
The 12-time major victor is in the same quarter as No. 4 Alexander Zverev, No. 5 Dominic Thiem and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka, who confirmed Saturday he'd return at Melbourne Park from his own six-month layoff following surgery on his left knee and that alone would feel like a victory.
"I feel that I had a good week and a half of practice. I've done really everything in my power, with a team of people around me, to enable me to be right here in front of you guys, and to compete in Australian Open".
"I played great players in the past year".
Nadal's career has been disrupted by injuries since 2005, but he sees a need for a more thorough examination of the tennis schedule after the latest spate of injuries. The Swiss player will wear a white t-shirt with a little bit of red and black color and white shorts.
He missed warmup events in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane but had an exhibition match at the Kooyong Classic and another practice match with Dominic Thiem at Melbourne Park on Friday, complete with ball boys and a chair umpire.
All without his once-omnipresent uncle and coach.
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"Although it's not entirely different. even those small changes have made a lot of difference", he said.
"It's my first tournament that he is not my official coach".
"I mean, he's (Federer's) a great example of someone that manages to take care of himself, knows how to prepare well and peak at the right time". He loves me. I love him. He is focused on the academy. "I don't want to say "new serve", but new service motion".
Federer was coming off an extended injury break and was seeded 17th at last year's Australian Open when he beat Nadal, who was seeded ninth, in five sets in the final.
A magical 20th slam might seem a formality for a player who did it all in last year's tournament with the shortest of run-ups, but on closer inspection, Federer's path through the draw is far from straightforward.
"But everyone starts from zero".