Indian Wells: Rafael Nadal was delighted to be back at one of his favourite venues for the Indian Wells ATP tournament after shaking off the knee injury that forced him to abandon his Australian Open title defence.
The Spanish left-hander has not competed since withdrawing from his quarter-final against Briton Andy Murray in Melbourne in January when he felt his play was good enough to win a seventh grand slam crown.
“That was the worst thing because I was playing really well,” world number three Nadal told reporters at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Friday of his Australian Open campaign.
“I was believing I can win the tournament there. I had the chance. I had a break in the first (set), a break in the second and I was playing at very good level.
“I think he played really well, too. It was a really good match, no? Both players played really well and I feel like I was at the top the whole time.”
Murray produced a breathtaking display to open up a 6-3 7-6 3-0 lead when Nadal, who had called in the trainer to treat his troublesome knee earlier in the set, shook his head and informed the Scot he could no longer continue.
The Spaniard was then sidelined for two-and-a-half weeks while the tendon healed in his right knee but he is now ready to make a successful ATP Tour return at Indian Wells where he won the title in 2007 and last year.
“This is one of my favourite tournaments, if not the favourite,” said Nadal, who enjoys playing golf in the Palm Springs area on non-match days.
“You feel like you are not playing a tournament. You feel like a little bit out of the world here. I play really well here all the time.
“Two semi-finals (in 2006 and 2008) and two victories so it’s good tournament for me.”
Asked if he had revised his goals for this year, Nadal replied: “I just want to be healthy and play well. If I do both things, I gonna have good chances to play and have good tournaments and to have good results.
“My feeling is the level is there, much better than what I had the last six, seven or eight months. I worked a lot in Mallorca the whole time and I think I am playing really well.”
Nadal, seeded third at Indian Wells, is scheduled to play his opening match against Germany’s Rainer Schuettler on Saturday in the second round.