Paris (AFP) – World number one Rafael Nadal returns to the Paris Masters this week for the first time since 2009, happy to be back in the city that has been the scene of some of his finest tennis moments.
The 27-year-old Spaniard told a packed press conference on Monday that his motivation was as high as ever, but finishing the year in top spot ahead of his main rival Novak Djokovic was not a priority.
“The easier answer is ‘yes’ but the real answer is ‘no’,” he replied when asked if finishing one of his finest seasons as world number one gave him added motivation.
“When I go to play in every tournament, I play with the same motivation and try to play with the same intensity.
“I’m excited to be back in Paris. Paris is a very special city for me, probably the most special city in the world. Talking about the number one and I will have to answer this question all week, it really doesn’t worry me. Seriously.”
The Mallorca-born left-hander missed the early part of the season through injury but came back in spectacular fashion and is chasing a record sixth Masters title of the season at the Bercy arena.
Another incentive facing the 13-time Grand Slam winner is attempting to become the first man since Andre Agassi in 1999 to win both the French Open and Paris Masters in the same year.
“I feel motivated and am very excited to be here. I haven’t had the chance to be here for different facts for the last four years so I’m very happy and excited to be back,” added the man who has racked up a record eight French Open titles in nine years.
“I don’t feel exhausted like I felt other times in the past. The situation is different, I’m relaxed. All the things that happened to me is more than what I ever dreamed eight months ago, so that makes me play very relaxed with less pressure,” he continued.
Nadal’s long-time rival Roger Federer is also in the French capital and needs just one victory to wrap up his spot at the season-ending London Masters after returning to form last week with a run to the Swiss Indoors’ final before a narrow defeat against Argentine world number five Juan Martin Del Potro.
The Swiss winner of a record 16 Grand Slam titles has had an off-key season by his own lofty standards, but when asked if the 32-year-old was sliding towards the end of his career, Nadal leaped to the defence of the player against whom he has played some of the greatest matches ever witnessed.
“From the outside, my feeling is his tennis is there. He had a positive week in Basel and that’s going to give him confidence again.
“I don’t have any doubt that he will be playing better than what he has done this year, no doubt about that.
“His talent allows him to keep being one of the favourites to keep winning the best tournaments of the year.
“Talking about whether he’s able to come back and be number one, I think he will say the same as what I said, I think it’s not his goal because at the end, he has already been there.
“His goal will probably be to finish the year well and be ready to start well in Australia next year. If that happens, he will be one of the candidates to win the first Grand Slam of the season.
“That’s something that really motivates him. But I’m sure he’s not finished, he will work hard in the off-season to be ready for 2014 and I’m sure he will be back playing great tennis again.”
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