Reigning champion Rafael Nadal insisted his number three ranking would have no affect ahead of the defence of his Rome Masters 1000 title this week.
Until a week ago, the 23-year-old Spaniard had not won a title since triumphing here a year ago and briefly dropped from world number one to number four, before moving up a place and arriving here at three.
But Nadal, who relaxed by joining Novak Djokovic, the man he beat in the final here a year ago, at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico to watch AS Roma take on Sampdoria on Sunday night, insisted that he had no problem with his ranking, even though he risks facing world number one Roger Federer in the semifinals. “I know the rules and I’m happy with the rules and who am I to say if that is correct or not correct,” he said.
“For me and for Roger it will be a pleasure if we happen to play against each other in the semifinals but I think it is very difficult to talk about the semifinals before starting the tournament.”
Even though he didn’t want to start counting his chickens, Nadal was adamant that his goal here was the same as it always is.
He is aiming for a fifth win in six years.
“I think year by year, it doesn’t matter if I won the last year, the goal is the same,” he added.
“I play to get a result and that is the goal all the years and this year is the same — I just try my best to play my best.”
One of his main threats will be world number two Djokovic, who won here in 2008 before reaching last year’s final.
But the young Serbian has been struggling recently and admitted he still hasn’t found a solution to his service problems.
“The fact is that a lot of people could see that it wasn’t working for me the last few months and there were a lot of things going in my mind when I was trying to serve so this is a crisis that everyone has to go through and work on mentally and technically and it will pay off,” he said defiantly.
“I know it will come off and I’m going to serve as I was but at this moment there is a little struggle.
“I’ve been working. I took a week off between Monte Carlo and Rome to get my things together and to work on some things.
“I am as ready as possible for the next few weeks which are going to be exhausting for me as I have to play three tournaments.
“Also, there are a lot of points to be defended. From the way I was playing in Monaco and now during practice, I’m sure I will be able to play some good tennis.”
Another player who’s had some questions raised over his recent form is world number four Andy Murray, but he brushed off any concerns.
“I think everyone goes through a tough period and I’ve had two bad tournaments so I just want to get back to where I was before and hopefully I can start that here,” he said.
“I didn’t have rhythm and I was making a lot of mistakes on court so I wasn’t particularly comfortable with the matches I played.
“I feel better when I spend a lot of time in the gym and on the court and practising mentally — that helps me a lot with my game. So perhaps with the work that I did last week that will help me with my game here.” — AFP