Rafael Nadal believes he is in good form going into the new season after the Spaniard dispatched compatriot David Ferrer to set up at meeting with Robin Soderling in the final of the Capitala World Tennis Championship today.
Nadal defeated Davis Cup team-mate Ferrer 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 in front of a packed arena at Zayed Sports City International Tennis Complex in Abu Dhabi last night and will now face off against the man who ended his dominance of the French Open last June.
“Robin is a really tough opponent,” said Nadal. “He serves unbelievable and he’s playing really well from the baseline with powerful shots from both the forehand and backhand.
“He’s solid; he’s not making mistakes and he’s coming here with confidence after finishing the year very well. So right now he’s one of the best players in the world and today will be a really difficult match.”
In the summer, the big-hitting Swede caused one of the greatest upsets in the sport’s recent history by condemning Nadal to his first defeat at Roland Garros in 31 matches – a run that had seen the world No2 secure four titles in four years on the clay in Paris.
Soderling then rubbed salt into the wound by triumphing again at the ATP World Finals in London last month. Nadal, however, insists retribution is not on his agenda in the capital today.
“Every match is the same for me,” he said. “I don’t believe in revenge. I lost my past two matches [against Soderling], but I won a lot before that, so it depends on the moment.
“If I play my best tennis I’m going to have chances to win. And if I don’t play very well I’m probably going to lose probably – that’s tennis.
“Robin’s a complete player who can play well anywhere,” added the 23-year-old. “But he always was good. He always had the game, but for some problems, maybe mental, he made more mistakes than now.
“The players on tour know, if Robin plays well, how tough he is and right now he’s playing well more times than before. He’s not improved; he’s just playing at his best level a lot more consistently.”
The reigning Australian Open champion missed six weeks of the season last year because of persistent knee injuries – an ailment that meant Nadal could not defend his Wimbledon title in July – but rebuked suggestions that he is only now returning to his best form.
“Everybody talks about ‘is Rafa back?’ or ‘Rafa is not back’,” he said. “I was here all the time; I never went. I lost in the semi-finals a few times and I lost in one final [to Nikolay Davydenko at the Shanghai Masters].
“Sometimes I think you really don’t know how difficult it is to win every time. I didn’t have bad losses: I only lost to one of the best players in the world. I was very consistent – after the injury I had a good second part to the season.”