Nadal aims to end on a high in Tour Finals
Rafael Nadal has vowed to finish a frustrating campaign on a high as the world's top players gather in London for the ATP Tour Finals.sports Updated: Nov 19, 2011 09:31 IST
Rafael Nadal has vowed to finish a frustrating campaign on a high as the world's top players gather in London for the ATP Tour Finals.
Although world number two Nadal claimed a sixth French Open crown 2011, his campaign has been marred by Novak Djokovic's remarkable ability to defeat him time and again at the final hurdle.
The Spaniard lost six successive finals to Djokovic, including at Wimbledon and the US Open, and surrendered his spot on top of the world rankings to the Serb as a result.
Nadal has been open about the psychological impact those defeats have had, but he is eager to stress beating Djokovic is not in any way an obsession.
"I'm not working every day thinking about Novak, I'm working every day thinking what I need to do to be a better player, and that's what I need to keep doing," Nadal said.
"Novak had an unbelievable year. Novak is not going to be at this level all his career and other people will have chances. He's played a very high level, the highest level I have ever seen."
Nadal opted to take a month off after disappointing defeats against Andy Murray and Florian Mayer in Asia after the US Open, meaning he will head into the end of season showpiece in London short on match action but still with a positive mindset.
"I went to Tokyo and I played a good tournament. In the last set against Andy I played bad but he played fantastic," Nadal said.
"The loss in Shanghai was difficult for me because I felt I was in a positive moment and I had an opportunity to play a good tournament and I had a bad loss against Mayer.
"That hurt me a little bit and I felt I needed to stop, to practise a little bit and to recover physically and mentally."
Nadal, Djokovic and the other six players in the world rankings have arrived at London's 02 Arena for the last event of the year, which starts on Sunday.
Nadal opens against American Mardy Fish, competing in the tournament for the first time, while Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are also in the group.
Federer starts his bid to win a record sixth World Tour Finals crown against France's Tsonga, who came back from two sets down to shock the Swiss star at Wimbledon this year.
That defeat was typical of Federer's erratic season, which will end without a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2002 and has prompted many pundits to suggest he is past his best.
The 30-year-old, who has slipped to fourth in the rankings, remains calm about the perceived crisis and, after winning his last two tournaments in Basle and Paris, sees signs he is finally back to his best.
"I'm not questioning myself because I feel I've found what it is that made the one per cent difference in winning all those matches or not," Federer said.
"I was so close to having another terrific year. If I had won three or four matches more at important stages of the tournaments this year, things would have looked completely different.
"It would be amazing to win the Tour Finals. for the sixth time. There's always pressure as defending champion but I'm used to it. I've done it so many times."
The other group features Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych.
For Djokovic the prospect of ending his fairytale year with one more title might be enough to force his weary limbs into action again.
Djokovic has enjoyed one of the best seasons in tennis history after victories at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, as well as five Masters titles and an incredible run of just four losses in 73 matches.
"This year was success after success, grand slam after grand slam, it was coming up all the time," he said.
"It is because I was thankful to have the opportunity and I stayed with both feet on the ground but always wanting more."