Rafael Nadal is confident that he can be world number one again despite struggling for fitness and form in recent years. The Spaniard has slipped down the ATP rankings after cutting his 2016 season short due to a wrist injury and will have his task cut out when he makes his return in December at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships.
In a wide-ranging interview, the 14-time Grand Slam champion spoke about his ambition to return to the top of the men's game, while also making it clear that he sets himself short-term goals rather than make specific targets in terms of winning tournaments. Andre Agassi was the oldest player to be ranked number one in the world at the age of 33, but Nadal admitted that beating the record is not his main motivation to reach the summit.
"I would not focus on this record, I am not necessarily interested in beating it. I have the enough passion for tennis in order to be No 1," Nadal told Spanish XL Semanal magazine, as quoted by Tennis World.
"I don't worry about how I am going to win the French Open next year. I think more in the short term: about my training tomorrow, what I want to achieve there. It is important to recognize the small successes. It is the small steps which bring you satisfaction at the end of the day," the Spaniard added with regards to his plans for the future.
Carlos Moya, former world number one and a close friend of Nadal, has backed the Spaniard to return to the top of the men's singles ranking currently occupied by Andy Murray. The 40-year-old believes Nadal has a few years of tennis still left but rued the timing of his injury this year, as it came when it looked like he was getting back to his best following back-to-back wins at the Barcelona Open and the Monte Carlo Masters.
"I think he will enjoy tennis for a few years, [but] he struggled to enjoy this year because the injury came in the worst moment where he was playing well. It´s complicated to play with pain for years, and when you have physical issues you don´t enjoy. I think he can be world no. 1 again," Moya told Spanish radio station Onda Cero, as translated by Tennis World.