Rafael Nadal went down to his second defeat in as many matches at the ATP Finals – but the durable Spanish icon is already plotting strategy for a fresh 2023 start in less than two months.
The 36-year-old lost a group match at the season wrapup in TurIn 6-3, 6-4 against 22-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime.
While the veteran is not technically out of contention to emerge into a long-odds semi-final spot, his chances look minimal.
But he is far from yielding to his current state: “I haven’t forgotten how to play tennis, or how to be strong enough mentally. I just need to recover all these positive feelings and all this confidence.
“I don’t know if I’ll reach (my best level) again – but I have no doubt that I’m willing to die trying.”
Nadal, winner of 22 Grand Slam titles, admitted in defeat that he’s gone through hell since suffering an abdominal injury at Wimble and exiting in the semi-finals to Nick Kyrgios.
He lasted until the fourth round of the US Open and has now lost four matches in a row for what is believed to be only the second time in his career.
Meanwhile, he became a father last month as he rehabbed his injury.
“It’s been six tough months in all ways,” he said. “I have to accept that. In these circumstances you have to be positive – that’s the main thing.
“Today and the last couple of weeks on the court have not been a big surprise.
“That doesn’t mean I’m not sad about the results, but these things happen. I’ve been through some difficult months.”
he added; “I have to accept that – tomorrow I start my 2023 season. The only thing that I can do is keep working, doing the things that I need to give myself a
chance to start with real chances in 2023.”
While Nadal put a dramatic spin on his situation, he still faces a final group match on Thursday and will be making what is without doubt a well-rewarded exhibition Tour of Central and South America next week, facing Kyrgios in Mexico City.