It’s been an up-and-down season for Rafael Nadal, and he acknowledged this week that he hasn’t lived up to expectations in 2016.
Speaking to reporters at the Shanghai Masters, the 14-time Grand Slam champion admitted that he’s not satisfied with his season to this point.
“I'm not satisfied with my performance because I get injury for [two-and-a-half months],” Nadal said. “Injured two months and a half, and you miss very important events. When you come back without practice and you have to compete [at] another important event without having practice and matches on your shoulders, it's difficult to be satisfied, no?
"I think if you ask me if I was satisfied during Indian Wells, between Indian Wells and Roland Garros, yes. I had been competing for every tournament that I played, and competing against all the players with good chances to have success. And that's the most important thing, no? So the level of tennis had been high during that period of time. But, you know, [it takes] a lot of effort for me.
"I worked so hard to be what I was in that moment, so when you break the rhythm with an injury, [it] is a little bit unlucky. And you need to accept and give more. And that's what I'm doing. [It] has been a difficult moment of the year, and I am trying to finish well and [trying] to be ready again for the next season. That's my real goal.”
After losing to Grigor Dimitrov in the China Open quarterfinals, the Spaniard fell to No. 5 in the rankings. He’s posted a very solid 39-13 record in 2016 and won two singles tournaments—the Barcelona Open and the Monte-Carlo Masters—but he didn’t make much of an impact at the majors.
Nadal lost in the first round of the Australian Open, withdrew from the French Open with a left wrist injury ahead of the third round, skipped Wimbledon and was bounced by Lucas Pouille in the U.S. Open Round of 16.
The 30-year-old is still widely regarded as one of the top players in the world, but his early exits at tournaments are becoming more and more common—and increasingly less shocking. With just a little over a month left in the season, Nadal won’t have many more chances to reassert himself among the game’s best.
He can make a statement this week in Shanghai, the second-to-last Masters tournament on the calendar, where he’s seeded fourth.
Nadal received a bye in the first round, and will take on 31st-ranked Viktor Troicki on Wednesday in the second.