The Spaniard won last week's exhibition in Abu Dhabi, defeating David Goffin and Milos Raonic, and is playing the ATP event in Brisbane this week as he rebounds from an injury-interrupted season that saw him drop to No. 9 in the rankings. But he cautioned his fans that it could take time before he returns to top form.
"The only thing I can tell them is I worked a lot to try to put myself in a position to be competitive again, to enjoy my tennis," he told reporters in Abu Dhabi. "I believe that if I am able to be healthy, normally history says I have good chances to compete."
Nadal took a longer offseason to practice and train. (He has not played a tour event since Shanghai in early October.) The 14-time Grand Slam champion said he is eager to play again and would assess his comeback following Indian Wells and Miami, not during the Australian events.
"I know I am working hard,” he said, “and [am] motivated to keep going and have passion to keep going the same way, if results are positive or not positive.”
Nadal's Abu Dhabi appearance confirmed that he has not changed racquet companies. His new coach, fellow Mallorca native Carlos Moya, has joined him in Brisbane.
Raonic says he can see a difference in Nadal's play already, with the Spaniard increasingly moving away from his traditional defensive base. According to Raonic, Nadal wants to play "a bit more aggressive, and really take control of the court."
"He doesn’t really want to rely on running around too much,” Raonic said. “…He’s doing that quite well, and if he keeps that up through the important moments in big matches, then he’ll be in fine shape.”
Nadal and Raonic are in the same half of the draw in Brisbane, and could meet in the semifinals.