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Nadal’s motivation remains as strong as ever

  • Dan Imhoff

Hauling himself back through the rehabilitation time and again, Rafael Nadal knows the routine all too well.

Countless visits to specialists, physios, then tentative steps back onto the practice court with his coach Carlos Moya.

Somehow the motivation endures. Only Nadal knows the mental energy required to put himself through it all again.

Andy Murray announced a day prior he could not haul himself through the pain – physical and mental – any longer.

Nadal can surely relate to the thought process.

“When you are going on court every day without the clear goal because you cannot move well, you have pain, then is a moment to take a decision,” Nadal said of Murray’s decision.

“I didn't arrive to that point. I am a positive guy. I always had the feeling that we'll fix it. But, of course, there are periods of time that you don't see the light. It’s tough.”

For as long as the 33-year-old believes he can haul himself back to contend for Grand Slam titles, his motivation remains resolute. Only three shy of Roger Federer’s tally, it is a record the Spaniard would feel is well within reach, pending fitness and health.

“Even if a lot of days you go on court when you have troubles or you go to the gym without having a real goal or without knowing why I am going there, because I don't see a benefit on this day, you keep going,” Nadal said.

“That's the only way that you can keep having confidence and hope for a good comeback in terms of health.

“I know sometimes it’s hard mentally. It’s tough when you have one thing, then another thing.

“But I know that tennis is not forever. I want to do it as long as I can and give myself the best possibilities to fight for the things really I am passionate about.”

After ankle surgery in November, Nadal knows one exhibition match in Abu Dhabi and another in a Fast4 format in Sydney is not the ideal preparation.

Match toughness will need to come in practice sets. Not that the Spanish great needs a ton of matchplay under his belt these days to find his groove.

As he has done so many times before, the 33-year-old will attempt to play his way into title contention.

Only two years ago, Nadal arrived at Melbourne Park with tempered expectations after a torrid 2016.

MORE: Australian Open men’s singles draw

Two weeks later he had come up narrowly short against a man on a comeback of his own, Roger Federer.

“2017 had been a special situation,” he said. “Both of us came back from a very long time without playing tennis. Nobody expected that, and it happened.

“Today is a different story. We are back to the top positions, fighting for the things again. [It has] always has been a big challenge to face Roger all around the world, on the different surfaces, different scenarios.

“And yes, 2017 here has been one of the matches that’s going to stay in our minds, in our careers. But one more, we had plenty.”

There will be no final rematch between the two at AO2019 with second seed Nadal drawn to cross paths with the Swiss No.3 in the semi-finals.

It’s a distant prospect at this point, but there are still clear goals in the interim.

Finding a way past Aussie wild card James Duckworth is first.