World number one Rafael Nadal of Spain is seen during his first official news conference of the 2014 season at Khalifa Tennis Complex in Doha yesterday. PICTURES: SHAIVAL DALAL
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Despite being occasionally bothered by a dodgy knee, Rafael Nadal feels relieved to arrive for the first event of the new season, saying playing doubles would make up for apparent lack of match practice at the start of 2014.
Last year in January, the current world number one missed the Australian Open due to a ‘stomach virus’ that forced the 27-year-old to skip the first major of the new season. The 13-time Grand Slam star only began his 2013 season in February.
“Last year, (it) was hard not (to) have the chance to start the season from the beginning,” a visibly relieved Nadal said yesterday. “So this year is a special feeling, (to) start again,” Nadal said ahead of his first-round clash at Qatar ExxonMobil Open today.
The right-hander revealed he started hitting balls only two weeks ago.
“I started (training only) two weeks ago - two weeks and a half,” Nadal said.
“And (in) the first week, I didn’t move myself, just practicing from the middle. So realistically speaking, I was playing for one week.
“I (am) gonna try my best. I am playing doubles also. It will help me for a little bit with more practice,” Nadal said.
“I am trying to practice as hard as I can during these days. I hope to be competitive, but if not, I will keep practicing hard because (the next) two weeks are important for me,” Nadal said.
Nadal said staying healthy was goal number one in the new season
“The goals are very similar all the time. Just staying healthy is the most important thing. Without health, the rest is impossible,” Nadal added. “I am going to try and be competitive from the beginning,” he added.
Nadal - who added the French Open and US Open trophies to his Grand Slam collection in 2013 - said his troublesome knee was “feeling better”.
“I really felt that this one (new treatment) really makes me feel more comfortable because I don”t have pain like I had (previously),” Nadal said. “So even if I was able to play very well this year, you know, that I played a lot of days with anti‑inflammatories. But anyway, I was able to compete very well during the full season since I started (the treatment). That was my goal and idea so I am very happy about everything.
“It is true that with that last treatment I feel more comfortable on my knee during the rest of the day. I feel that I can do much more in normal life than what I did last year and a half, because at the end I was playing tennis, but for the rest, I just relaxed,”” Nadal said.
Nadal backed the idea of former tennis stars joining current top players like Novak Djokovic who has roped in Boris Becker while Roger Federer has signed Stefan Edberg.
“It’s much better if you have big stars, past stars involved in our sport like (Ivan) Lendl, Becker and Edberg. They will be around the Tour much more often today because of the new status that they have. So that will be great news for our Tour,” Nadal said.
“So (I am) happy to hear this news, because in the end what makes the sports big is the combination of history and new events.
“It’s great to combine the past champions and they have a lot of influence on the Tour today with the new status. I think it’s great for us,” Nadal added. THE PENINSULA