INDIAN WELLS, California, March 9 – Rafael Nadal says he’s not obsessed with beating Novak Djokovic despite some heavy soul searching after seven straight losses to the world No. 1, the last three in Grand Slam finals.
“I don’t have the spirit of revenge. I don’t have the spirit of obsession of another player,” Nadal said Thursday at the ATP Tour’s Indian Wells Masters series tournament.
“I want to improve to beat Novak and Roger (Federer). I try every day to improve my level of tennis.
“But whenever I go on the court for practice I don’t think about Novak, I think about getting better.”
Spaniard Nadal says he’s ready to reclaim his throne as the top ranked player in the world, but that path clearly goes through Djokovic, who defeated Nadal in the final of this year’s Australian Open 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 to win his fifth Grand Slam title and third in a row.
The match lasted almost six hours, the longest Grand Slam final in history, and marked Djokovic’s seventh-straight win over the claycourt specialist, beginning with last year’s final here in the California desert.
“It was a great match, great quality and it was physically demanding and emotional. He won, I lost and I was happy to be part of that,” said Nadal, who is playing his first tournament since the Australian Open.
World number two Nadal holds a 16-14 career record over Djokovic but couldn’t overcome the Serb in the most recent Aussie Open, US Open and Wimbledon.
“You have to have a reference on what you have to do to improve,” said Nadal, who won the 2011 French Open. “I prefer to be in front.”
Nadal, 25, said there is no magic formula to beating Djokovic. It is going to come down to hard work.
“He brings tennis to another level. But nobody is forever. There was Federer then something happened and then Djokovic and in three to five years when I come back here there will be somebody better than him. I don’t know if it will be me the one to have success.
“Victories for everybody have an end.”
Nadal, Indian Wells champion in 2007 and 2009 — will play a South American in his opening second round match of the men’s draw which got underway on Thursday.
If he gets past either Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer or Colombian Alejandro Falla, who played on Friday, he would be on track to possibly face world number six Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or tenth seeded Janko Tipsarevic in the quarter-finals.
“I feel I am hitting more winners than before,” said Nadal, who is 31-5 at Indian Wells.