Rafael Nadal is aiming to bounce back to top form at this week’s Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, where he is an 11-time former champion.
Five days on from his quarter-final loss to Andrey Rublev at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, the Spanish superstar has spent a lot of time on the practice court. Nadal hit seven double faults and won 42 per cent of his second-serve points against Rublev.
“I have not played much over the past few months, or the past year,” said Nadal on Tuesday. “Coming back to competition is always tough. Monte-Carlo was an important challenge, where I experienced a lot of positives during the tournament and practice sessions. I lost in the quarter-finals, not being able to compete at the level that I needed. Here I have another opportunity.
“I’ll go week by week. I have an important month that finishes with Roland Garros. Each match and each week is important now. That’s how I see it. I am hoping that the negative stuff doesn’t take a toll and I am aiming to be positive every day to get to where I want to be.
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With the exception of last year’s shortened ATP Tour season, Nadal has won a clay-court title prior to Roland Garros in 12 of his 13 triumphs in Paris.
“I want to win events before Roland Garros, because I like to win tournaments,” said Nadal. “Of course, it’s easier winning Roland Garros with the confidence of winning events before, as I have done for much of my career. But the key is put myself into a position to be competitive in every single event. I have not competed a lot over the past year, but even if I felt ready for Monte-Carlo, matches like I had can happen. I will keep working hard for my match tomorrow in Barcelona, and every day for Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros.”
Nadal, who has had time to reflect on his Monte-Carlo exit, admitted, “If you are training well every day, when you play a match and do some things especially bad, it is surprising. I knew what happened immediately. Losses, even if they are not pleasant or positive, put everyone in their place. I analyse details from every match, and I know that I need to improve certain things. It was a strange match. You can lose against a great player like Rublev, but I did some things wrong and that surprised me.
“Other times, when you’re not feeling great, playing bad seems logical. That wasn’t the case in Monte-Carlo, but it happened. You need to understand what went wrong to avoid making the same mistakes again. After any loss, you have some days with doubts [in your mind]. The key is to recover and that’s what I have been doing. I have trained with the right attitude to have great feelings to compete here.”
Nadal, who had compiled a 61-4 in Barcelona, plays Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka in his first match on Wednesday afternoon.