Improvement Still Foremost On Rafa’s Mind
Nadal: ‘I’m going to fight. I’m going to do it my way’
It’s been a strange year for Rafael Nadal. Following his straight-sets loss to Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s China Open final, the Spaniard is now 2-8 versus Top 10 competition in 2015. But in his first hard-court final since the 2014 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Miami he showed that he is indeed back to playing his trademark brand of aggressive, never-say-die tennis.
In essence, Nadal's refusal to let a foot injury deter him during the second set of his battle with Djokovic in Beijing epitomises his 2015 season. Despite the occasional setback, he never gives up.
“I’m going to fight. I’m going to do [it] my way,” said the 29-year-old. “When I was No. 2 and Roger was No. 1, it was not my obsession to catch Roger [Federer]. My obsession was to improve my game and do it my way. For me, it’s the same thing today. My motivation is to keep going, and I have been doing that already. I know if I am playing well again, then I can fight. If I can fight, I can compete well [many] times in a row against the best players. So I think I’m going to be good competitor again if I recover my level."
“I feel like the experience that he has from his career and all the championships that he has won on different surfaces, the biggest trophies in the world, at the end of the day he's one of the best players ever to play this game," Djokovic observed. "I'm sure he understands what he needs to do in order to come back to that highest level. He keeps on working hard. He's one of the most hard‑working guys on the tour. He spends a lot of time on the court. Sooner or later that will pay off.”
"It's normal to go through some oscillations in your career, some ups and downs," Djokovic added. "If there's anybody that knows that and is able to come back, it's him, because of all the history he has."
As he heads into the Shanghai Rolex Masters, Nadal is not just chasing titles, he’s already prepping himself for a more Rafa-like 2016.
“My main goal is try to be 100 per cent ready for the beginning of next season,” said Nadal. “I hope to fight next year. I hope to fight again with the top players because I have motivation to do it.”
The Emirates ATP Rankings tell us that he’s currently No. 8 in the world. But, as always, Nadal insists that he won’t be defined by the numbers.
“That's my number today. I don't know if you consider that one of the best players of the world or not,” he said. “In tennis, it’s different than in other sports, where you don't have a ranking. Here you have a ranking. If I am No. 8 or No. 7, that's the number that I am in the world today. Do I consider myself one of the best players of the world? I am enough humble to say that this year has not been the ideal year for me. But at the same time, I don't want to lie [to] anybody. It’s obvious that I consider myself one of the best players in the world after the career that I’ve had."
Following a first-round bye, Nadal will open his Shanghai campaign against the winner of the Ivo Karlovic vs. Jeremy Chardy clash. His best result came in 2009, when he was a runner-up to Russia's Nikolay Davydenko.