Rafael Nadal believes that his ability to adapt his game during matches has been a crucial factor behind his dominant start to the year, with the Spaniard arriving at the BNP Paribas Open holding a perfect 15-0 record on the season.
The 35-year-old has captured tour-level titles at the Melbourne Summer Set and the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC, while he won a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open, edging Daniil Medvedev in a five-set classic in the final.
“I have always been able to find a way to adapt my game when I have needed to become better,” Nadal said in his pre-tournament press conference in Indian Wells. “Some days I have played aggressively, some days I have played a little more defensively and more tactically.
“My serve has been working well, which is important at this stage in my career. Then I think I have been brave enough to play with the right determination when needed. I am just working hard to continue to improve, but I am happy with the level of tennis and intensity I am showing on court.”
Nadal has enjoyed a career-best start an ATP Tour season and has won his past 20 sets in a row, dating back to the Australian Open.
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However, the World No. 4’s strong start to the year has been even more impressive given the struggles he had with his foot in 2021, with the injury sidelining Nadal for five months.
“I tried to stay as positive as possible and that is it,” Nadal said when reflecting on his recovery. “We didn’t practise running or movement work [last year]. After Roland Garros, I couldn’t walk for two weeks. Then I was not ready to go to Washington or Toronto but I wanted to try. But the two months of training before that were terrible.
“Winning [at the Australian Open] was so important. But being competitive and enjoying the competition was what was so emotional for me, being able to play in a huge stadium with fans again.”
Nadal has fond memories in Indian Wells at the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the year, having lifted the trophy in 2007, 2009 and 2013. The fourth seed, who will begin his campaign against Australian qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis or American Sebastian Korda, said that he has relished the opportunity to compete regularly on Tour again in recent months.
“I have been here for more than a week,” Nadal added. “I always enjoy it here. It is one of my favourite tournaments without a doubt. I take it day by day, just trying to enjoy the moment. It is unexpected for me to be in this position, so I am enjoying it every day and trying to enjoy the fact I am playing well. I have already won three titles this year and that is amazing for me.”