Rafael Nadal looks to be taking a leaf out of Roger Federer's playbook from last season after insisting that his main focus in 2018 as he returns from injury will be to be the best player on clay – his preferred surface.
The Spaniard is currently sidelined with a leg injury that he sustained during his Australian Open quarter-final loss against Marin Cilic and is expected to return to action at the Acapulco Open on 26 February.
Nadal is just 155 points ahead of Federer at the top of the ATP rankings but has insisted that he will not jeopardise his fitness in order to maintain top spot. He is focusing on getting fully fit and made it clear that he needs to be happy first and the rest is "secondary".
It is a similar stance to what the Swiss ace did last season when he focused on tournaments that were important and played a limited schedule to remain fit for the entire campaign. He skipped the entire clay court swing of the season to focus on the grass and hard court events later in the year. Federer also followed a "fitness first" mantra which put his physical condition ahead of his need to play and win tournaments.
Nadal has also indicated that getting fit for the Masters Series event in Monte Carlo and the French Open are his main priorities as he is keen to be the best player on his favourite surface. The Spanish 16-time men's singles Grand Slam winner will be favourite if he gets back to full fitness to win his 11<sup>th Roland Garros title in June.
"At the moment I only think about recovering because for me the most important thing is to get well into the period between Monte Carlo and Roland Garros," Nadal said, as quoted by the Express.
"I insist that I want to be happy and from there it is all more or less secondary.
"Logically, the season on the clay is set and my main goal is to return to be the best player in the world on the clay," the 10-time French Open winner explained.