Nadal in search of solution to slump

Rafael Nadal after his straight-set loss to Novak Djokovic in their semi-final at the ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday.
Rafael Nadal after his straight-set loss to Novak Djokovic in their semi-final at the ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • Rafael Nadal knows what he has to do after the worst year of his career.

The Spanish tennis star said that he would have to redouble his efforts to return to form if he is to get the better of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic next year.

Nadal's world ranking sank to 10 this year when his long reign as French Open champion ended, before embarrassingly early exits from Wimbledon and the US Open.

But the Spaniard, who has 14 Grand Slam titles to his name, is enjoying a resurgence in form and said his defeat by Djokovic in the World Tour Finals semi-finals on Saturday would not dishearten him as he prepares for the new year.

"My next step is just keep practising the way that I am doing. I know I need to keep improving things if I want to have chances against Novak next year," the 29-year-old said. "That's what I am going to try. Just keep working the way that I am doing. I think I am doing well.

"Very few moments in my career I get frustrated. When one player is better than you, the only thing you can do is try to find (a) solution."

The world No. 5 beat Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Stan Wawrinka in the group stage, but Djokovic proved a class apart, winning their semi-final 6-3, 6-3.

"I'm happy about the tournament. Happy about finishing the season with that positive energy. Now I have a week off, and that's it," said Nadal.

The former No. 1 is eyeing some relentless training and playing in the International Premier Tennis League next month, in order to hit the ground running at the Australian Open in January.

"I practise thinking about what I have to do to be better, then we'll see if I am good enough," he said. "My motivation has always been just personal, that I want to improve myself, I want to be better. That's what I'm going to try to keep doing.

"My goal is try to keep being in that top league, that is the top five, top four of the world. We'll see if I am able to keep doing this.

"Novak for the moment is almost unbeatable. The only thing you can do is congratulate him," Nadal said. "But... you never know what's going on in the future. I have been in very good situations a couple of times, then I get some injuries, things change.

"What Novak is doing is just amazing. But it's not easy to stay at that high level four or five years in a row."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2015, with the headline 'Nadal in search of solution to slump'. Subscribe