ABU DHABI // If you thought season 15 of the all-action Rafael Nadal show was going to be any different, perish the thought.
“He puts in so much intensity in every shot,” said David Goffin last night, after his first experience of facing Nadal in a competitive match.
“He plays every point like it is the last point, like his life depends on it.”
Nadal, of course, knows no other way to play. He has always been like that on the tennis court, despite medical advice to slow down and warnings from peers like former star Andre Agassi.
“He’s writing cheques that his body can’t cash,” Agassi had said in 2005, only three years after Nadal’s ATP World Tour as a 15-year-old in his hometown Mallorca.
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Agassi, of course, was true in his assessment. Nadal has missed close to 30 months of tennis due to injuries in his career.
But returning from his latest injury-enforced break, a two-and-a-half-month lay-off to allow his left wrist to heal, the Spaniard hardly seemed any wiser.
He was his usual relentless self, subduing, first, Tomas Berdych and then world No 3 Milos Raonic with his high-octane tennis before leaving the fleet-footed Goffin exasperated in yesterday’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship final.
“I play my way,” said Nadal after his 6-4, 7-6 win for his fourth MWTC title. “Sport, for me, is all about passion.
“If you don’t try your best, then the sport loses its significance, loses its real values.
“So I have always tried my best during in my career. When I go back home, with an injury, or even after a defeat or a victory, I am always relaxed because I know I have always given my best, during lots and lots of years.
“When you give your best, then you are satisfied with yourself. If I don’t give my best, if I go on court and I am not fighting for the match, then I am going to feel so, so bad and I always try to avoid that.”
That passion and fight perhaps explains Nadal’s resolve every time he makes his return from injury.
Nadal, however, would like the pundits to give him a few months before they pass any judgements.
“We cannot start analysing my game from how I played here, or how I play in Brisbane,” he said. “Let’s wait and see how things go over a period of time. Let’s wait until after Indian Wells and Miami.
“I would have already had the chance to play in Brisbane, Melbourne, Rotterdam and Acapulco by then, which means I would have played enough tournaments to say, “OK, I am here’ or ‘I am there’.
“When you are coming back from injury and you have not competed in a while, you cannot analyse how you feel after two or three events. Let’s wait a couple of months.”
While the jury waits, Nadal believes there are plenty of positives he can take from his Abu Dhabi sojourn into the new season, most notably his forehand.
“I am very happy with my performance here and that gives me some positive energy for the New Year,” said Nadal.
“I played three matches against three top players, and to win against these kind of players is impossible if you are not playing well. So these three victories is really positive news.
“It was also pleasing to see that when I am able to play with confidence with my forehand, the matches are going the way I want.”
Then, addressing his fans, Nadal added: “The only thing I can tell them is that I have worked a lot to try to put myself in a position to be competitive again, to try to make them enjoy my tennis again, and I will do my best to make that happen.”
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