Manila: An improved Rafael Nadal will show up for the 2016 season, the world's former top tennis player said Monday after his worst season in a decade. The 29-year-old Spaniard, now ranked number five, declared himself healthy and optimistic for next year after a late 2015 rally that saw him beat all but two of the world's top 10 players he has faced since October.
Rafael Nadal. Pic/AFP
"I think it's obvious that I did not have the best season possible, but I am number five in the world so actually it's not a disaster," he told reporters in Manila. "I don't know if I'm going to win it (number one) back, (but) I'm working hard to create opportunities to compete for the best tournaments and I'm working so hard to try to make that happen." He had surgery to remove his appendix in late 2014 after various problems with his knees, hamstrings and back.
Nadal's world ranking sunk to number 10 earlier this year when his long reign as a French Open champion ended. He also had embarrassingly early exits from Wimbledon and the US Open. But the left-hander, with 14 Grand Slam titles to his name including a record nine French Open crowns, has since enjoyed a resurgence in form.
He defeated the likes of Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Stan Wawrinka in the group stages of the season-ending World Tour Finals in London before losing to world number one Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. "I think I finished it very well this season and I want to continue it that way," he said Monday.
Nadal is in the Philippine capital this week to play in a parallel International Premier Tennis League tour, which promotes a shortened, speeded-up version of the game. Showing few signs of his struggles in the previous months, the Spaniard swiftly won over the crowd with his signature intensity over two sets, grunting, chasing and diving after seemingly lost causes all over the court.
He beat world number six Tomas Berdych 6-5 (7/3) in the men's singles after teaming up with Croatian Ivan Dodig to defeat Berdych and Canadian Daniel Nestor in the men's doubles, 6-3. Even as he nears 30, Nadal rejected suggestions it might be time to adjust his playing style, maybe in the mould of his great rival Roger Federer, to make him last longer in the tour.
"I'm not Federer, I'm Rafael Nadal. He has his style and I have my own style. I for sure try to improve many things during all my career and for sure I'm working hard to be a better player. "And if I am a better player for sure I will have the chance to play a bit longer."
Nadal said he was treating the IPTL tour, which began in Japan and will also have stops in India, Dubai and Singapore this month, as part of his preparation for the 2016 season. Nadal is expected to compete next month in the Australian Open, which he has won just once.