(AP) This season left Rafael Nadal so frustrated that he even considered skipping the ATP finals.
Not that he thought he would not qualify for the season-ending tournament after a dismal year that saw him drop to 10th in the rankings last June, but the Spaniard felt so uncomfortable on the court that he was convinced making the trip to London would not be worth it.
“It was not physical, it was mental,” Rafa said Tuesday at the Paris Masters. “If I was not enjoying on court and not feeling competitive, so it would probably not make sense to play on the toughest surface for me. I play to enjoy (myself) and to be 100 percent competitive.”
Rafa has been able to turn things around in recent weeks. He reached his 98th final last week in Basel — losing to Roger Federer — after ending runner-up to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in Beijing last month.
He moved back to No. 6 in the rankings and will be playing at the O2 Arena from Nov. 15-22 alongside Djokovic, Andy Murray, Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and Kei Nishikori.
“The story now is different, no? I’m enjoying on the court,” Rafa said. “I don’t have the nerves I had during the season. Doesn’t matter if I lose, I win, but I’m enjoying on court, on practice court, so I’m going to be there.”
Rafa’s season reached its nadir when he lost in the second round at Wimbledon, then in the third round at the U.S. Open. Despite winning three titles, Nadal also faltered on his favorite surface at his favorite tournament, losing in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in the French Open quarterfinals.
Despite one setback after another, Rafa stayed confident he would recover and qualify for the ATP finals. At least, that’s what he says.
“I always believed that I was going to be in the top eight at the end of the season, but always with the respect,” he said. “Even if I had the tough moments this year, I knew the year is long and normally I would have some good weeks to qualify.”
Happy to be competitive again when pitted against the top players, Rafa is now building for next season. The 29-year-old Spaniard’s plan is to play as many matches as possible before the year ends to put into practice the new things he is working on at training. In Paris, he is also playing in the doubles draw with Leander Paes.
“For the return, it’s important for me, and returning more inside the court,” Rafa said. “And in doubles there is a little bit less pressure. So that helps. Helps you for the volley, too, and to get a little bit quicker.”
Source: The Associated Press