Excited to be back on court, my goal is to keep improving: Nadal

Tennis: Interview:


COMEBACK KID: Feeling his way back after a knee injury, Rafael Nadal is determined not to put pressure on himself.

Instead of defending his cherished Wimbledon cro-wn, Nadal had to nurse his sore knees and became an expert on how to overcome the effects of tendinitis.

Following his enforced break, the six-time Grand Slam champion made his comeback earlier this month in Montreal, where he sat down to have a chat with Reuters to discuss a wide range of issues. Excerpts:

The US Open is only Grand Slam event you have yet to win. How does it feel going in to the tournament, especially since you were out of action for more than two months?
I think I am going to have more options in the next few years. The important thing is to feel confident with my knees and when I feel confident with my knees, I'm going to be able to practise harder and find my best performance as soon as possible.

It's tough to say if I am going to be ready 100 percent for the US Open. It's normal, isn't it, because after a long break and major injuries, it's difficult to be ready. But I will try."

How does it feel back to be on court after the long break?

It seems like my knees are much better. But you never know. I have to play at the top level to see how it affects my knees.

How far do you think this is going to affect your long term career?

Not at all. I wasn't in good condition when I arrived at two important tournaments of the season -- Roland Garros and Wimbledon. But otherwise I am ok. I am very happy to be back on court, excited and motivated to work hard to try and play my best tennis as soon as possible.

After a few months outside of competition, it's always very tough to come back after an injury but I am working hard to be ready.

How much did it hurt not to be able to defend your Wimbledon title this year?

It was really tough. It is always tough to lose a tournament or miss a tournament for injury. But the truth is, I wasn't ready to play in Wimbledon. So I feel very bad but I didn't feel ready. I will be back next year.

Three months ago you were the defending champ at three Grand Slams and the world number one. Now you only have the Australian Open title and are no longer No. 1...
I am not number one right now but I always say the same thing. My motivation and aspiration is the same, being number one or being number five. So that's the truth. And my goal is the same -- it's to always be happy playing, it's to enjoy the game and improve always.

That's what I work on -- improving my tennis. And to be happy playing because if I'm not happy playing, it's very difficult to play well. I need to have the right attitude. I am going to play the next tournaments with the same aspiration and motivation as last year. Doesn't matter.

Although Roger Federer won the French Open and Wimbledon titles this year, some people said his victories might be devalued because he did not beat you at the two tournaments. What is your opinion on this?

The important thing is to win the tournament. It doesn't matter who you win against in the final. For me a win against Roger is always very, very special but I would love to win any grand slam against someone in the final. (laughs). Doesn't matter who the rival is.

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