A revitalised Rafael Nadal insists he’s carrying no psychological scarring and is ready to contend for a second Australian Open crown.
Nadal will spend the week recovering and honing his game after making the whirlwind trip from Doha to Sydney to feature in an exhibition event against Lleyton Hewitt and Nick Kyrgios the night after losing the final of the Qatar Open to Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic’s 6-1 6-2 mauling left Nadal marvelling about how the world No.1 had played a “perfect” match and taken tennis to unseen levels.
But the Spaniard is refusing to believe he can’t turn the tables on Djokovic and land a 15th grand slam title at Melbourne Park, which hasn’t exactly been the 29-year-old’s happiest of hunting grounds.
“I’m playing great,” said Nadal, who has finally regained his place in the world’s top five after slipping to as low as No.10 midway through last year.
“I’m playing much better. I’m feeling strong. I’m enjoying the competition.
“I played a great tournament in Doha. I lost the final against a player who played better (than) impossible. I just accept and congratulate the opponent.
“I go my way and my way is really positive the couple of months, and I started the year well again and the Australian Open is an opportunity to continue competing well.”
A quarter-final loss last year in Melbourne, coming as he continued his recovery from injury and appendicitis, added to a run of disappointments since he snared his only Open title in 2009 with a memorable five-set triumph over Roger Federer.
Nadal had to retire from his 2010 quarter-final against Andy Murray with a knee injury before his rare quest for a non-calendar-year grand slam sweep the following year was thwarted by a hamstring tear suffered in the semi-finals against countryman David Ferrer.
He then fell short in the longest grand slam final in history in 2012, a five-hour, 53-minute epic against Djokovic, and skipped the 2013 Open with a stomach virus.
After a back injury cruelled Nadal’s chances against Stan Wawrinka in the 2014 Open decider, the former world No.1 crashed out in the quarter-finals last year as he continued his recovery from appendicitis.