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10:59PM

Nadal Working to Win Mind Game

by JAMES HENRY

CINCINNATI – Each point. Each match. Each season.

Rafael Nadal is taking tennis one step at a time, focusing on the future rather than the past.

A strong showing at this week’s Western & Southern Open would boost his chance to enter the upcoming U.S. Open as a top-8 seed.

Nadal won the Cincinnati championship in 2013. But a right wrist injury prevented him from trying to defend his title.

So far this year, he is 41-13 and has bitten three trophies – on clay in Buenos Aires and Hamburg and on grass in Stuttgart. None from a Masters 1000 tournament or a Grand Slam event.

Nadal noted he has been practicing a lot since arriving in Cincinnati and stressed that he is training hard to reclaim his throne at the top of the ATP World Tour rankings.

“Last week was not a negative week in Montreal. I played OK,” the 29-year-old said matter-of-factly. “I played the quarterfinals.”

“I have been playing better than at the beginning of the season the last couple of months, I think, even if I lost a few matches that I am not happy with. I have been playing a little bit better. But every week is a different test and every week is a different story,” he said.

“I know that the work when you are coming from a bad moment, the work is tripled, much more mental and tennis work than when you are in a normal situation or in a good dynamic situation. So that’s what I am accepting and doing, is working more than ever to try to change the dynamic and to try to feel myself more confident and more comfortable on court. 

“I am doing the right things. When somebody is doing everything possible, then the only thing that you can do is keep doing the same and wait for opportunities and wait for better moments. That’s what I am doing. And I hope to have a second part of the season be a little bit better than the first one. 

“Obviously, the second part of the season is a little bit more difficult for me. We don’t have clay out there. But, for me, more than results is finishing with the feeling that I did things better, that I feel that I was improving in my game. The last part of the season is going to be important for me to finish the season with a better feeling than I started and to try to start strong next year.”

Nadal has won 14 Grand Slam singles titles, a record 27 Masters 1000 trophies, 16 ATP 500-level tournaments and nine ATP 250 events, as well as the 2008 Olympic gold medal in singles. He also was a member of Spain’s title-winning Davis Cup team in 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2011.

Asked to share his opinion of the insults 20-year-old Nick Kyrgios lobbed across the net from Stan Wawrinka last week in Canada, Nadal said he did not want to say much. 

“Being young or not, I think, is not an excuse at all,” he said, pointing out that he was only 16 years old when he joined the global professional tennis tour.

“When we are on court and saying things outside of court, we are in front of the cameras, we are in front of the audience and, the most important thing, we are in front of kids,” he said.

“Our sport, you know, is a gentleman’s sport, generally. It’s a sport about respect, about shaking hands after the match, about doing your stuff, support yourself, do anything, but don’t bother the opponent and be respectful with the umpires and with your opponents and with the crowd, too.”

Nadal, notorious for the time he can take between serves, then made a joke.

“If we want to keep the game like this, want it to be as strong on all this stuff, that is, in my opinion, it’s much more important – because it’s an example for kids – than about a time violation,” he said with a big smile and laugh. “That’s another point.”

Returning to the seriousness of bad behavior, he surmised: “The only way to stop is to stop.”

Nadal conceded he historically has not performed that well in Cincinnati, but he has done better in recent years.

“2013 was an amazing year,” the champion recalled. “It is an event that I am happy to be back. It’s great to be back at an event that you have won in the past.”

“I enjoy the crowd. They’re very emotional here, and I enjoy that fact,” he added. “Every tournament that I go, I’m going to try to play my best, try to create a good show for the crowd, too, and at the same time try to be at the highest level possible.”

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Reader Comments (1)

NIce write up Jim! I love how Rafa focuses on moving forward, looking to the future.
August 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGinny

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