Rafa aims to re­sus­ci­tate stalled ca­reer in Bris­bane

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Bris­bane, Aus­tralia

Span­ish great Rafael Nadal is hop­ing the sea­son-open­ing Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional gives him the chance to kick-start his ca­reer fol­low­ing an in­jury­plagued 2016.

The 30-year-old has won 14 Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tles in a glit­ter­ing ca­reer, the last com­ing at the French Open in 2014.

But his 2016 cam­paign was ru­ined by a wrist in­jury that forced him out of Roland Gar­ros af­ter the sec­ond round and saw him miss Wim­ble­don.

Nadal then lost to French- man Lu­cas Pouille in the fourth round of the US Open and slipped to his cur­rent No 9 in the world rank­ings..

But the Spa­niard said on Thurs­day he is fit and ready to chal­lenge for an­other Grand Slam ti­tle.

“My idea is to stay here for a few more years and I feel enough mo­ti­va­tion to be here,” Nadal said af­ter beat­ing To­mas Berdych of the Czech Repub­lic 6-0, 6-4 at the Mubadala World Ten­nis Cham­pi­onship ex­hi­bi­tion tour­na­ment in Abu Dhabi.

“I be­lieve that I can com­pete for im­por­tant things in the next three years.”

Nadal will be mak­ing his first ap­pear­ance at the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional, a ma­jor lead-up tour­na­ment to the Aus­tralian Open, and one that boasts a high-class field.

“I’m ready to play in Bris­bane — I hope to be 100 per cent ready to play at a good level,” he said.

“I feel I’m healthy enough, and I’m very ex­cited to be com­ing to Bris­bane for the first time in my life. I’m work­ing hard enough to be com­pet­i­tive. That’s my main thing, to be com­pet­i­tive.

“I need a lit­tle luck at the be­gin­ning and to play matches, be­cause I haven’t played much in the past four months.”

Nadal will be the fifth seed in Bris­bane, be­hind world No 3 and de­fend­ing cham­pion Mi­los Raonic of Canada, Switzer­land’s three-time Grand Slam win­ner Stan Wawrinka, Ja­pan’s Kei Nishikori and ris­ing Aus­trian star Do­minic Thiem.

The top eight seeds are rounded out by Nadal’s fel­low Spa­niard David Fer­rer and French duo Pouille and Gilles Si­mon.

The women’s draw is head- ed by Ger­many’s An­gelique Ker­ber, who won the Aus­tralian and US Opens in 2016 and fin­ished run­ner-up at Wim­ble­don on her way to tak­ing over from Ser­ena Wil­liams as world No 1.

Ker­ber be­gan her 2016 sea­son in Bris­bane where she reached the fi­nal, go­ing down to Vic­to­ria Azarenka.

“It is the best way to start the sum­mer of ten­nis in Aus­tralia,” Ker­ber said.

“For me, Bris­bane kick­started the best sea­son of my ca­reer this year.

“You have to play tour­na­ments that will pre­pare you for the big mo­ments, which for me were win­ning the Aus­tralian Open and go­ing on to be the No 1 player in the world.”

Do­minika Cibulkova is seeded sec­ond and will head into the tour­na­ment full of con­fi­dence af­ter beat­ing Ker­ber to win the WTA Fi­nals in Sin­ga­pore in late Oc­to­ber, the big­gest win of the Slo­vakian’s ca­reer.

The Czech Repub­lic’s Karolina Pliskova is third seed while Spain’s 2016 Wim­ble­don cham­pion Gar­bine Mugu­ruza is fourth.

The tour­na­ment opens at the Queens­land Ten­nis Cen­tre on New Year’s Day.

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