Healthy Nadal eyes 2016 with optimism

MANILA • An improved Rafael Nadal will show up for the 2016 season, vowed the former top tennis player in the world at the sidelines of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).

The world No. 5 declared himself healthy and optimistic for next year, after a late rally this season saw him beat all but two of the world's top 10 players he had faced since October.

"I don't know if I'm going to win it (the top ranking) back (but) I'm working hard to create opportunities to compete for the best tournaments," the 29-year-old told reporters in Manila.

The Spaniard's world ranking sunk to No. 10 earlier this year when his long reign as a French Open champion ended. He also had embarrassingly early exits from Wimbledon and the US Open.

But the 14-time Major champion has since enjoyed a resurgence in form. He overcame the likes of Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Stan Wawrinka in the group stage of the season-ending World Tour Finals in London last month before losing to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.

"I think I finished it very well this season and I want to continue it that way," he said.

Even as he nears 30, Nadal rejected suggestions that it might be time to adjust his playing style, maybe in the mould of his great rival Roger Federer, to make him last longer on the Tour.

"I'm not Federer, I'm Rafael Nadal. He has his style and I have my own. I for sure try to improve many things during all my career and for sure I'm working hard to be a better player," he said.

Nadal is in the Philippine capital this week to play in the IPTL.

Showing few signs of his struggles in the previous months, he swiftly won over the crowd on Monday with his signature intensity over two sets, grunting, chasing and diving after seemingly lost causes all over the court.

He beat world No. 6 Tomas Berdych 6-5 (7-3) in the men's singles.

Earlier, he partnered Croat Ivan Dodig to defeat the Czech and Canadian Daniel Nestor in the men's doubles, 6-3. His efforts helped the Indian Aces emerge 30-18 winners over the UAE Royals.

Nadal said he was treating the IPTL, which began in Japan and will also have stops in India, Dubai and Singapore, as part of his preparation for next season. The Singapore leg will take place from Dec 18-20.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2015, with the headline 'Healthy Nadal eyes 2016 with optimism'. Print Edition | Subscribe