Rafael Nadal is ready and raring to launch into next week’s Australian Open, while the 14-time grand slam champion believes he can achieve ‘something beautiful’ throughout 2017.
Targeting a resurgent year after a combination of poor form and injuries derailed his last couple of seasons, Nadal will return to Melbourne Park next week in an attempt to capture his second Australian Open crown and 15th major title overall.
Nadal’s enjoyed an encouraging start to the year, winning the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition tournament and then falling in a tight three set match with Milos Raonic in the Brisbane International quarter-finals. The Spaniard was triumphant in Abu Dhabi last year and made the final in Doha, but he couldn’t produce his best tennis in Melbourne, going down to compatriot Fernando Verdasco in a five-set thriller on Rod Laver Arena.
The World No. 9 is hoping to avoid a repeat of his shock opening round exit this time around - and perhaps use the tournament as a springboard to begin a climb back up the rankings in 2017.
“I believe I can have something beautiful this year,’’ Nadal said ahead of the upcoming Fast4 in Sydney.
“I feel that I played six good matches (three in both Abu Dhabi and Brisbane), winning five, losing one. I’m going to fight for good things.”
Nadal was edged by the blistering ball-striking of Raonic on Thursday night in Brisbane. After claiming the first set Nadal was outgunned and overpowered by the big-serving Canadian, with Raonic breaking early in the decider and riding that momentum to the finish line.
Despite the loss, Nadal is taking the positives from his week in Brisbane, declaring there was barely anything separating himself and the current World No. 3.
“It’s important to win a lot of matches, of course, but at the same time it’s important to lose with just a small difference (between the opponents),’’ Nadal said.
“That’s what happened (against Raonic) The result was so close, and that’s positive. It means my mind was ready to keep fighting until the end, and that’s what I did.”
Nadal will play the Fast4 exhibition in Sydney with Kei Nishikori against Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic on Monday before making the short trip down to Melbourne to finalist his Australian Open preparations. Nadal is aiming to go beyond the Round of 16 at a grand slam for the first time since the 2015 French Open.