ABU DHABI // Rafael Nadal is confident he has ticked all the boxes on his trip to the Mubadala World Tennis Championship and the Spaniard feels he is ready for another grinding comeback to the tour after missing most of the post-Wimbledon season.
Nadal, the world No 3, has played only seven official matches since being knocked out by Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round at Wimbledon with, first, an injury to his right wrist robbing him of the opportunity to defend his Montreal, Cincinnati and US Open titles.
He made a brief comeback in October for the Asian swing but, bothered by an appendicitis, he decided to skip the rest of the season and have surgery.
Appearing on the courts for the first time since his match against a qualifier, Borna Coric, in Basel, Nadal was beaten 6-2, 6-0 here on Friday, but bounced back to down Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (1), 6-3 and claim third spot on Sunday night.
Pleased with the improvement over his first-day performance, the Spaniard said: “Yesterday, I made more mistakes than usual, especially with my backhand. Today, my positioning was a little bit better and I was quicker in recovering.
“I did make some mistakes, but in general, I feel I played a positive match, against another tough opponent.
“So it is good to have this test and for me it is great to have an opportunity to play these two matches in Abu Dhabi and I thank the organisers for giving me this chance. The work I came to do here, I believe is done and I really hope these two matches will help me moving forward.”
Nadal, whose next stop is Doha before he lands in Melbourne for the Australian Open, is no stranger to comebacks and the last time he made a return from injury, in 2013, he reached the final in the first nine of his tournaments, winning seven of them.
That time eight of his first nine tournaments were on clay and Nadal believes that helped him. This time, that is not the case and the Spaniard expects a few challenging weeks ahead.
“In 2013, I started in ideal conditions at two 250 tournaments, on clay,” he said.
“The conditions were perfect for me. I played three finals in a row, all on clay, and won two of them. That give me a lot of confidence. I had my rhythm back, I knew what I needed to do. After that, I went to Indian Wells, I played great and won the tournament.
“This year is a different story, but you never know. The only thing I can do is keep work hard, with the right attitude, be positive and try to be ready.
“If I am not as competitive as I would like in Australia, the season continues for me in South America.”
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