No rest for Nadal as Spaniard’s focus switches to grass

Paris: A fifth French Open in the bag and back as world number one, Rafael Nadal could have been excused a morning off on Monday. Instead he was en route for west London to sharpen his grasscourt skills.

Nadal’s victory over Sweden’s Robin Soderling at Roland Garros on Sunday, his fifth French Open title in six years, broke Roger Federer’s year-long reign at the top of the rankings and confirmed that the Spaniard is back to his formidable best.

After missing last year’s short grasscourt season and the chance to defend the Wimbledon crown he won so memorably against Federer in 2008, the 24-year-old Spaniard will arrive at Quuen’s Club for the traditional warm-up event on a high.

“The confidence is always the most important thing. So winning here and winning the last 22 matches on clay is always very good preparation for grass,” Nadal told reporters after his Paris victory.

“On Monday afternoon I’m going to be practising on Queen’s, not for long, for 45 minutes. Maybe I will love to play doubles on Tuesday there to prepare. And I’m sure I’m gonna play the singles on Wednesday.

“But I’m very happy. I’ll try and practise and spend as much time on the court this week to find my momentum on grass. That’s my objective. I’ll try and arrive as prepared as possible to play my best Wimbledon ever.”

It is all a different scenario to last year when he arrived having suffered his one and only defeat at the French Open -- his fourth-round shock by Soderling for which he exacted sweet revenge on Sunday, romping to a 6-4 6-2 6-4 victory.

With his knees now recovered and his confidence restored Nadal could be occupying the number one ranking for the forseeable future as he has no points to defend at the All England Club where Federer must win a seventh title to avoid slipping further behind.

The Swiss 16-times major champion remains tantalisingly close to breaking Pete Sampras’s record of 286 weeks spent on top of the rankings. He is stuck on 285.

Nadal played down the significance of overtaking Federer in the rankings, preferring instead to concentrate on reclaiming his Wimbledon crown, as he did the French.

“I’m not going thinking about the fact that I (was Wimbledon) champion,” Nadal said.

“It’s two years after my victory, so a lot of things change. I’m just gonna try my best like I did every year to arrive there in my best condition. Last year wasn’t possible.”

After this week’s Queen’s Club event, which also includes the likes of world number three Novak Djokovic and number four Andy Murray, Nadal will head back to Mallorca for a few days before pitching up at Wimbledon on Wednesday week.

Only after the grasscourt slam will Nadal let his hair down and toast his return to dominance.

“It’s difficult to have a big celebration if you have to practise tomorrow,” Nadal said. “I’m gonna have time, eh? In summer at home after Wimbledon. In Mallorca I will have an unbelievable celebration.”

Bureau Report

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