Rafael Nadal says Novak Djokovic’s comeback to form has come as no surprise
Rafael Nadal says he is “not surprised at all” to see long-time rival Novak Djokovic within touching distance of a return to world No 1, ahead of the pair battling it out at the Paris Masters.
Nadal has missed nearly two months of action after the Spaniard retired at Flushing Meadows because of tendonitis in his right knee.
Meanwhile, Djokovic comes into the final regular tournament of the season on an eighteen-match winning run after his fourth Shanghai Masters title were preceded by victories at Wimbledon, Cincinnati Masters and US Open to underline his return to form.
He is having a great second part of the season so he deserves to be where he is.
Rafael Nadal on Novak Djokovic
Nadal will target his 34th Masters 1000 title this week, at an event he is yet to win, and believes his injury struggles – which have seen him miss pivotal Masters series events – have acted as a contributing factor in Djokovic’s climb up the world rankings.
“I am not surprised at all – he is so good. At the same time I played only nine events and got injured in two of them – both have been at Grand Slams,” Nadal told the ATP website.
“He is having a great second part of the season so he deserves to be where he is. Everybody was sure he would be back to his best and I am happy to see someone like him back playing at that high level.”
The 17-time Grand Slam champion is looking for a fifth year-end No 1 finish but despite having held the top spot since June 25, Nadal is downplaying its importance as a source of motivation going into the conclusion of the season.
“I got injured in an important part of the season twice,” he added. “At the beginning of the season I missed two Masters 1000 [after Australian Open injury]. I then got injured at the US Open so I missed Beijing, Shanghai.
“So, too many tournaments lost. My main goal is to be back on court, to be happy playing tennis and keeping healthy. Then with things that can happen or not… let’s see.
“I am going to fight as strong as I can to win as many matches as possible. Of course I would love to [remain] No 1 but I am here to just try my best every day.”
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Nadal says Paris will always hold a “very special” place in his heart but despite having never won in Bercy, the 32-year-old says there is no added incentive to win in the French capital.
“I just try to play with my highest passion and love for the tournament that I play. Everyone knows this city is probably the most important in my career.
“To play here is always very special. I don’t have a highest motivation to play here because I haven’t won the tournament. I just try my best in every single tournament I play.”
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Four-time champion Djokovic believes he is back playing at his best level, which has come since he reunited with coach Marian Vajda in April.
The Serbian became the first player to win the career Golden Masters with victory against Roger Federer in Cincinnati while if he progresses further than Nadal this week then he will return to the summit of men’s tennis for the first time since October 2016.
The grass court season was a catalyst for everything that was coming up after that.
“I am very proud and very pleased to put myself in a position to fight for the year-end No 1,” said Djokovic, who held all four Grand Slams after completing the career Grand Slam in 2016.
“I would say even five months ago it really didn’t look probable. I had a ranking around 20 in the world and more importantly I hadn’t really played at the level I need to fight for the top spot of the rankings.
“But I always believed I could get myself to that level quite quickly. I probably got ahead of myself. After the [elbow] surgery I thought I could get to that level right away but obviously it wasn’t the case.
“It took about three or four months for me to figure out my game and find the rhythm and confidence. The grass court season was a catalyst for everything that was coming up after that.”
Paris Masters: Ranking points on offer
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