Shanghai, China: Rafael Nadal’s 26-match winning run on hardcourts may have been broken when he lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in the China Open final in Beijing on Sunday, but the Spaniard has an early chance to get back on track as he targets an 84th career title in this week’s Shanghai Rolex Masters.
Seeded No 2 in the lower half of the draw here, Nadal has been given a first-round bye ahead of a possible showdown with Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals and Japan Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in the semis. Before that, however, his first opponent in the second round will be the winner of Monday’s match between Alexandr Dolgopolov and American qualifier Michael Russell.
“I hope to be ready for Shanghai,” Nadal said after his 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Djokovic. “It’s an important tournament, one of the most important of the season because it’s a Masters 1000. But to be 100 per cent at such an important tournament is going to be tough as I will have to play against the best players from the beginning.
“There are going to be no easy players [in Shanghai]. But it’s probably true that, when I finished the US Open along with all the success that I’ve had during the long season, it is mentally a little bit tough.”
Nadal, who has incredible 10 titles already this year, returned to No 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday for the first time since June 2011.
“All the success that I had has given me a lot of positive energy to remain a little bit more optimistic,” the 27-year-old 13-time grand slam winner said. “And I am going to try my best in every match I play until the end of the season.
“I am going to be at the top of the rankings for a few weeks now. I need to keep playing well to try to finish No 1 at the end of the season.”
For all his usual composure on and off the court, Nadal was left somewhat red-faced when asked about his IQ at the media conference after Sunday’s final.
“I think I am a really normal guy who is 27 years old,” the Spaniard said. “And to be a professional tennis player or a good tennis player you don’t need to have a very high IQ.
“I think I really am a very normal guy. I went to school and all that stuff and did nothing special.”
Nadal then went on to extol the values of tennis and sports in general, urging children across the world to exercise regularly. “Tennis is a very good sport where you get education and values that you need to be a good person,” he said. “I think I was very lucky to have good people around me during all my life. And that’s probably why I am here today.
“I think I am a really normal guy enjoying the situation that life has given me to be a professional tennis player that in turn has given me the chance to enjoy a lot of experiences that, without tennis, I would not have had the chance to experience.
“I think for a kid it’s good to be practicing sport because when you are doing sport you belong to a healthy world. At the same time the spirit of sport is a good value and great education for a kid.”