Nadal says injury issues are behind him ahead of Mubadala.
Bothered by wrist and knee issues the past few seasons, the former world No 1 says he ‘feels healthy, and that’s important’
ABU DHABI // Rafael Nadal’s fans can breathe easy.
His ever-growing catalogue of injuries may have scarred the body and battered his confidence, especially over the past two seasons, but the 14-time major winner is not ready to walk away from the sport just yet, at least not in the next 12 months.
Given his struggles with form and fitness over the past few years, there has been speculation 2017 could be the Spaniard’s farewell season, but that is not in his thoughts
“Everybody is free to say whatever they want, but that’s not my plan,” said Nadal, 30, speaking to the media yesterday at the Godiva Chocolate Cafe in Abu Dhabi’s The Galleria. Nadal opens his Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) schedule against Tomas Berdych tonight.
“My idea is to stay here for a few more years and I feel enough motivation to be here. I believe that I can compete for important things in the next three years.”
Struggling with a recurring left wrist injury for most of this season, the former world No 1, who has missed close to 30 months of tennis because of injuries in his career, had brought his season to an early end following his first round exit from the Shanghai Masters in October. The break appears to have been good for him. He looks rejuvenated and, to use his own words, “excited” about returning to the tour.
“It’s great to start here in Abu Dhabi again and I am excited about playing Tomas tomorrow,” said Nadal, who defeated Milos Raonic in the MWTC final last season to win the tournament for a third time.
“I like coming here. It’s a chance to play tough matches and gain rhythm, especially when you are coming from months without competing. “That kind of helps. “So it’s going to be a good start.
“I have practised a lot during the past few months and now I feel ready for the action.”
Having started practising again a month-and-a-half ago, Nadal said is feeling healthier than he has in recent past.
And, for the first time in many seasons, he is feeling confident about his troublesome knees as well.
So confident that he has decided to change his schedule for 2017 and skip his February trip to Brazil for the tournament in Rio, which had served as a confidence booster for him on his favoured surface, clay, to focus on hardcourt play instead.
“I feel healthy and that’s the most important thing,” said Nadal, whose injury woes started at the age 17 when he discovered the reason behind the pain and swelling in his left foot – a rare congenital condition called Kohler’s feet.
The growing confidence in his knees, Nadal said, also meant he could “work again on things that I did not work on over the last couple of years because the knees didn’t allow me.
“I have been able to do it during this off season, and that is
I like coming here. It’s a chance to play tough matches and gain rhythm, especially when you are coming from months without competing Rafael Nadal World No 9
something, I expect, can bring me really positive results.
“I don’t know from the beginning because beginnings are always tough, especially when you have been away for months from the competition. “But in the long run, for sure.” To help him achieve those results, Nadal has added former world No 1 Carlos Moya to his coaching team that includes his uncle Toni Nadal and Francis Roig.
“Carlos is a good person, a good friend and for me it is important that I have people around me who want the best for me,” he said.
“It’s not business, it’s a relationship, and with Carlos I am sure about that.
“I am happy practising with Toni, Francis and Carlos.
“We are doing the right things and working hard, and we have the right motivation to try to reach the levels I was at before I got injured.
“I love the game and I am happy I can play without any major pressure because I have done everything in my career.
“Now, it is just this passion to keep going, and that’s my main goal.”
Spaniard Rafael Nadal was at Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi yesterday where he said he has a bright outlook on his playing career ahead.