WATCH: Rafael Nadal, Kyle Edmund hope to recover from injuries ahead of the Australian Open
Rafael Nadal has started the season with yet another injury withdrawal but is still aiming to play more events than he did in 2018.
"Because if it's like 2018, I am not a tennis player anymore," said the Spaniard, referring to a season in which he competed in just nine events and retired with injury during two of them.
But that was a day before the No. 2 announced that he was withdrawing from this week's event at Brisbane with a thigh strain, though saying he expects to be fit to play in two weeks at the Australian Open.
Nadal also withdrew from Brisbane in 2018, subsequently also retiring at the Australian Open with a mid-match injury and not playing again till the clay-court season. He also retired with injury during the semifinals of the US Open, and did not play again for the rest of the season.
Like Roger Federer and other players who have been on tour for a long time, the 32-year-old now gets exemptions that allow him to play fewer ATP tournaments with no penalties.
Yet though he acknowledges that his biggest priority is to try to avoid injuries, Nadal says he is not deliberately playing less to extend his career.
"I'm going to play when I feel ready to play, and I'm going to play the things that makes me happy to play. I have plenty of years on the Tour," he told press at Brisbane.
"I never went slow. The thing is I always tried my best. All the thing that I don't want to do is suffer more than what I did [during 2018]—that's mentally kills you, you know.
"You can't go every day on court and practice with too much problems, no, because then this is difficult to keep doing this.
"But at the same time I always think that, on the other hand, I enjoy a lot of fantastic moments in my career. So it will be not fair if I only talk about the injuries, no, because I had the chance to create a lot of opportunities to enjoy, a lot of opportunities to play in front of the best crowds of the world and to achieve much more than what I have dreamed."
And despite his recent run of injuries on hard-courts, he still aims to keep doing just that. "I really believe that I have keep having tennis to play in my career, and I really feel that my body is not going worse every year, said Nadal.
But one thing he's no longer chasing is the No. 1 ranking, which usually requires playing a fairly heavy schedule.
"Since a couple of years ago, it's not my goal. My goal is just be happy doing what I am doing and be competitive all the weeks that I am playing, he said.
Nadal also withdrew from the exhibition event at Abu Dhabi following his opening-round defeat to Kevin Anderson. He will be the second seed at the Australian Open.
This Week on Tennis Channel Plus:
Hopman Cup (Sat - Sat 12.29 - 1.5)
• Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber headline the Hopman Cup. Watch live coverage on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Saturday 12/29 at 9:00pm ET.
ATP/WTA Brisbane (Sun - Sun 12.30 - 1.6)
• Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens open their 2019 seasons in Brisbane. Live coverage from three courts begins on Tennis Channel Plus on Sunday 12/30 at 8:00pm ET.
WTA Auckland (Sun - Sun 12.30 - 1.6)
• Catch the action from the ASB Classic including Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki. Live coverage begins on Tennis Channel Plus on Sunday 12/30 at 8:00pm ET.
WTA Shenzhen (Sat - Sat 12.29 - 1.5)
• Watch first to last ball action from the Shenzhen Open featuring Maria Sharapova and Jelena Ostapenko beginning Saturday 12/29 at 11:00pm ET.
ATP Pune (Mon - Sat 12.31 - 1.5)
• Watch Kevin Anderson, Marin Cilic and Hyeon Chung live from Pune starting Monday 12/31 at 6:30am ET.