World No.9 Rafael Nadal is trying not to get overconfident heading into the Australian Open, despite already playing six matches so far this season.
The Spaniard won an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, defeating quality players Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych and David Goffin on the way. He then ventured to the Brisbane International, where he reached the quarterfinals before falling to Raonic in three tight sets.
Nadal is adamant that attention to detail is the key for him heading into the first Grand Slam of the year. He is striving to be in perfect condition at Melbourne Park, as he looks to avoid falling in the first round for the second consecutive year.
In 2016 he reached the final of Doha before making his way to Melbourne, stating that he felt in perfect shape and deserved to be one of the favourites to challenge for the title. But, it all unravelled in his opening match as he fell to compatriot Fernando Verdasco in a thrilling five set encounter.
“When you are going to an event, you know, you have to put attention on every moment, every practice, every match. All the opponents are dangerous,” Nadal said.
“Last year I felt that I was ready, played great in Abu Dhabi, played great in Doha, I had a good week of practice in Melbourne, and then I lost in the first round. So you never know, and you can-not predict.
“The only thing that is in my hands today is try to keep working the same way I am doing. I try my best in every moment. I work so hard to come back after the injury in Mallorca, and I feel that I am on the right way.”
The 14-time Grand Slam champion still has a bit of an unknown surrounding him as he returns from a wrist injury. He has slipped to No.9 in the world and his opponents may not know what to expect when they face him at Melbourne Park.
Nadal says it may take three months for pundits to be able to analyse his game and how he will be able to compete this year.
“Looking overall first two weeks of the season have been positive for me, and I cannot focus only on Australian Open,” He said.
“Let me play for three months, and then we will see what I am, no, because, you know, I can go to Australia and I can play very well, but at the same time, I can lose. You never know what's going on.
“But probably after Miami, [it’s going to be] a good moment to analyse a little bit what's going on and to see where I am being realistic.
“You can play some good matches, but you need to see a little bit more tournaments in a row to analyse a little bit your real performance.”
Even if success fails to arrive at the Australian Open, the Spaniard has not yet ruled out returning to Australia to begin his season in 2018, saying that the previous year’s result means nothing com-pared to fitness and how one feels on the court.
“Doesn't matter what’s going to happen in Australia to decide if I come back or not next year. No, no. I know I played good Australian Opens playing Doha, good Australian Opens playing Chennai, and very bad Australian Open playing Doha,” Nadal said.
“I feel that remain one week and a little bit more for the Australian Open start, so I really hope that I can be ready for it, and I’m going to fight and to practice hard to make it happen. Then what’s going to happen, I cannot predict, but anything is possible.”
Nadal is hoping that the Australian Open can set up a successful 2017, as he is determined play a full schedule this year – something that he has only been able to do once in the past three years, back in 2015.
“My tennis goal is try to win every match that I play. That's my main goal. When I go on court, try to be competitive and try to be healthy and play the full schedule, be able to work the way that I am working for the whole year,” he said.
“And then if I make that happen, I believe I’m going to fight for good things and I can have some-thing beautiful this year.”
Nadal will be looking to be the first man since Rod Laver to win all four Grand Slams twice and if he plays the way that he did in his first two matches in Brisbane he could prove a handful for anyone he faces.