Rafael Nadal has warned Novak Djokovic that his unbeaten start to 2011 won’t last forever.
Djokovic beat Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in the Rome Masters final to deny the Spaniard a sixth title here in seven years and take his winning streak to 37 matches this year.
It was the fourth time this season the Serbian has beaten the world number one in a Masters final and the second time on clay in the space of eight days after his Madrid triumph.
With the French Open beginning next Sunday, Nadal faces the prospect of not being the favourite, even though he has won there five times in six years.
But Nadal said he is focussing on improving his own game so that when the time comes, he will be the one ready to pounce.
“I’m there all the time, I’ve played in six straight finals, I’ve lost four (Miami, Indian Wells, Madrid and Rome; wins at Monte Carlo and Barcelona) but there is one player playing better than the rest, he is doing unbelievably,” said Nadal.
“My goal is to be there next time. I’m focussed on my way. In the last few months he’s been on a different level to the rest of the players.
“I have important personal satisfaction in how I’m doing this year, we’ll see in the future. This week was very positive for me, I finished the week playing much better than at the beginning.
“That didn’t happen [the previous week] in Madrid which was a negative thing.”
Having lost twice in a row to Djokovic on clay, Nadal said he is not worried that his aura of invincibility has been damaged.
It was only his eighth defeat in 201 matches on the surface in the last seven years and only his fourth loss in 31 claycourt finals.
“It’s not my problem, my problem is to be there, to keep improving my level and to work hard to arrive at the next tournament in perfect conditions,” said Nadal.
“For me it doesn’t matter if people think I am more beatable than before, the important thing is to be confident and happy with what I’m doing and to do everything I can.
“I can’t ask more of myself. I’m trying, I’m doing very well but one player is doing better than me. But being a big champion is not only about being able to win every week but when you are able to wait until the right moment.
“One player is winning almost everything, I’m second so let’s keep trying.
“That won’t continue like this forever because it’s impossible. I wish him the best but I will keep trying.”
However, Nadal acknowledged that it’s not easy to find a weakness in Djokovic’s game.
“He’s a complete player, he can do everything. He defends very well, better than he did before. He can attack very well, like he did before. He’s very, very good, that’s the problem.
“He has all the shots. He beat me in the last four Masters but I beat him in lots of important things in the past — the semi-finals of the Olympics, the final of the US Open, two semi-finals at Roland Garros.
“We will see what happens in the future.” — AFP