Nadal relishes IPTL debut, Manila visit

(Philstar.com) - December 7, 2015 - 6:26am

MANILA, Philippines — For sure, this is the off-season for many of tennis’ top-tier stars — an opportunity to let loose and just enjoy. It’s a reprieve from the grueling and intense stretch of the tour.

But for Spanish superstar and Indian Aces stalwart Rafael Nadal, it’s the most opportune time to take a break, reflect and plan for the future.

“It had been a great afternoon for me. It’s been a great crowd behind me. I’m enjoying the people. They’re so friendly,” he said. “In a format like this, the match is so interesting. I’m having a lot of fun. I’m having the team around me. The crowd was just unreal today.”

Nadal, known to take his time with his serve, made his International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) debut against the UAE Royals Monday afternoon. He drew loud roars from the crowd, and his recompense was beyond noteworthy.

He had a light moment with the press shortly after powering the Aces over the Royals in two rounds. But when asked about return to form, Nadal didn’t mince his words.

“I think it’s not [my] best season, but I finished No. 5 in the world. I hope I’ll be ready in the next season to play in the right level,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m going back to winning Grand Slams. I’m working hard to create opportunities, to make the best of the tournaments. I’m working hard to try to make that happen.”

And with his body of work being discussed on the table, two words that will arguably hound him for the rest of his career, surfaced.

Federer. Djokovic.

Nadal, whose name always crops up with either of the two in the discussion of the best tennis player of the era, noted that everything is different.

“Every rivalry is different. I know [Novak Djokovic] is an amazing player. He is doing things that nobody did in the past. [Roger Federer] had been so special because he’s been a combination of styles. [With Djokovic] we’re not that far away with styles. I enjoy both. I’m happy to be a part of it,” he said.

Nadal had been a matchup nightmare for Federer. The latter has a head-to-head lead over the Swiss netter 23 wins to 11. Meanwhile, Djokovic has caught up. The World No. 1 has tied the Spaniard at 23 wins after trailing for years.

There’s a lot to improve, the IPTL rookie said. Despite an array of accolades under his belt, Nadal humbly admitted that he has to put a lot work to rediscover his old, lethal form.

“I’m not Federer. I am Rafael Nadal. I try to improve my things … to improve my career. I don’t have the chance to play a bit longer, so I’m working hard to improve.”

Asked if he feels a hundred percent healthy with the new season just around the corner, the man dubbed as the “King of Clay,” the only person to win a Grand Slam title for nine straight years took a pause.

He then smiled before saying, “I am healthy right now.”

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