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Always beware the wounded lion. Rafael Nadal lost his world No.2 ranking over the weekend after a shock defeat to Fernando Verdasco in the last 16 of Madrid and Roger Federer’s overall win. But the Spaniard is just inching to fight back at a tournament he has won five times.
Nadal will take on Florian Mayer in Wednesday’s second round refocused after spending time with his family in his native Majorca following his shock exit in Spain. The charismatic left hander spent time engaging in his favourite pastimes and is now ready to snatch his ranking back from nemesis Federer and prove he is the bigger fish.
“I had a day off in Majorca the other day,” he said. “My first feeling after the match was to come to Rome to the next day but after talking to the people around me we decided to come home for some days and spend some time with my sister. She lives in Barcelona and I don’t have a lot of time to see her so I spent some time with her and with my family and fishing on Friday morning early. Being in the middle of the sea with fantastic weather and I was able to swim a little and so it was fantastic for me.
“I don’t know how things are in the race. I know I am 100 points behind Roger and 500 or 550 behind Novak Djokovic. My position’s not bad – I had a good start of the season – two or three hard matches – the final in Australia – that made a big decision with 100 points and semi finals in Miami I didn’t play for an injury of the knee and last week with the conditions. That is why I’m number three and not number two.”
Despite the drop down, Nadal insists he will not be making any changes to his style and will treat the season like a soccer season. The old adage ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint” appears apt.
“That is a tournament which is usually a favourite for my game,” said Nadal, and you cannot argue with that statement given the success he has enjoyed here. “I am happy I am in Rome to keep playing as I play – to arrive with number two or three isn’t going to change my game. If you are number two or three then that doesn’t change. You just have to win. You have to win in the semi finals. I want to keep playing and end the clay court season and start the grass court season.
“I think everybody follows the ranking system. When I start the season in January I see it like a league – a soccer league – you start and then you finish and the entry is the bit of the race when you know how you are doing. You start from zero and you finish at number six or number five and then you come back to zero again. That is my way of seeing sport.”