World No. 7 and a 14-time majors champion Rafael Nadal has vowed to make a strong comeback, after experiencing his worst season in more than a decade.
The Spaniard’s dwindling form this year has seen him go without a grand slam title for the first time since 2004. As a result, it has pushed him down to seventh in the current world rankings with many contending that the King of Clay is now nearing the twilight stage of his career.
At 29 years of age, this could be construed as a harsh judgement, but Nadal’s recent slump provides his adherents with very little counter arguments.
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There has also been a lot of talk lately of Nadal possibly opting to retire early to spare himself more embarrassment, with many completely ruling out his prospects of lifting another grand slam trophy.
The Mallorca-native, however, has a very different reading of the whole picture.
Nadal, who is currently in China to compete in the China Open, has dispelled the impression that he is contemplating the option of hanging up his boots, instead claiming that he is slowly crawling towards his best form.
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Nadal: I am motivated
He was quoted by Fox Sports as saying: “In the US Open I did better, even if I lost the match (to Fabio Fognini in the round of 32). Tough loss, but I did better. Let's try here to do better again.
"I think I am working well. I am very motivated to go for that challenge that brings me the chance to overcome a tough situation for me. I love that feeling, and I am going to fight to make that happen."
Emerging second best against his rivals has been one issue Nadal has encountered this year, but the more telling problem has been how he has lost his aura and psychological dominance over those ranked below him.
Future looking brighter for Nadal?
The Spaniard has consistently lost to players outside of the top ten – opponents he would have dispatched without sweating his brow in his good old days.
A couple of moral sapping defeats early on in the season can derail a player’s ambitions and dent their confidence. And that is what Nadal thinks happened to him.
The nine-time French Open champion feels his troubles in the earlier part of the year adversely affected his confidence, and he has struggled ever since to get back on track. But he believes it has all started to come together again.
He added: “It's obvious that when you lose more than what you won, you lose your confidence, no? But the confidence comes back with victories and with good feelings on court," he told reporters in Beijing.
"In the practices, there are better feelings for me. Now it remains to compete a little bit better (in matches). But I think it's coming.
“I was not able to control my emotions on court for a lot of months, so when that happens it's almost impossible to play well, no?
"Last couple of months I'm feeling that I recovered that. I don't feel that I am suffering on court as I did the first six, seven months of the season.
"So I try a little bit to play with calm. I believe that sooner or later I will be playing at a very high level again.”
Nadal will open his China Open campaign against the unseeded Wu Di as he aims to secure qualification in World Tour Finals set to take place in November. He is currently ranked seventh in the ATP Race to London.