Nadal to kick-start 2017 in Brisbane

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

BRISBANE:

Span­ish great Rafael Nadal will be hop­ing the sea­son-open­ing Brisbane In­ter­na­tional gives him the chance to kick-start his ca­reer fol­low­ing an in­jury-plagued 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.

He then lost to French­man Lu­cas Pouille in the fourth round of the US Open and slipped to num­ber nine in the world rank­ings at year end. But the Spa­niard says he is fit again and in­sists he can still chal­lenge for a 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 for the last four months.”

Nadal will be the fifth seed in Brisbane, be­hind world num­ber three 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 headed 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 num­ber one.

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 kick-started the best sea­son of my ca­reer this year. “You have to play tour­na­ments that will prepare you for the big mo­ments, which for me, was winning the Aus­tralian Open and go­ing on to be the num­ber one 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 French Open cham­pion Gar­bine Mugu­ruza is fourth. The tour­na­ment be­gins at the Queens­land Ten­nis Cen­tre on New Year’s Day. — AFP

BRISBANE: This file photo taken on Jan­uary 26, 2014 shows Spain’s Rafael Nadal play­ing a shot against Switzer­land’s Stanis­las Wawrinka dur­ing the men’s sin­gles fi­nal at the 2014 Aus­tralian Open ten­nis tour­na­ment in Mel­bourne. Span­ish great Nadal will be hop­ing the sea­son-open­ing Brisbane In­ter­na­tional gives him the chance to kick-start his ca­reer fol­low­ing an in­jury­plagued 2016. — AFP

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