Melbourne - Rafael Nadal says he is driven to restore his
slumping ranking after powering past Germany's Florian Mayer into the second
round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
The long-time world number one looked back to his healthy best
after an injury-riddled 2016 as he tossed the 49th-ranked Mayer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
in just over two hours on Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal will face Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the second
The 14-time Grand Slam champion is irked to be ranked at
nine after occupying a total of 141 weeks at world number one during his
storied playing career.
Now the 30-year-old is back to full fitness after recovering
from a left wrist injury which dogged him during last year's French Open and
forced him to miss Wimbledon and the ATP Finals in a frustrating second half of
Nadal said his current ranking affected his confidence and
he was focused on returning to the top rungs.
"Oh, yes, it makes a difference. Is much better be
number one than number nine. Is no question about that," he said.
"But I am number nine today. That is just the real
thing. Today I'm the ninth player of the world.
"I am going to fight to not be worse, and I going to
fight to be again better. I feel that if I am playing well and I am healthy, I
think I can be much better.
"I am happy with the way I have had the chance to play
for a long, long time in this sport. I expect to keep playing for few more
Nadal said at his peak things became automatic when winning
matches and he was looking to retrieve those instincts this year.
"When you are playing and playing and winning matches,
then you have things that come very automatic," he said.
"You don't need to think much about the things that are
happening or the way that you play points.
"But when you are out for a while, you need to recover
all these automatic things that makes you play easier. That's the important
Nadal looks well on the way to regaining winning confidence,
returning to the Australian Open where he was dumped out in the first round
last year by compatriot Fernando Verdasco in a five-set boilover.
There was no likelihood of a repeat ambush by Mayer this
"Today was not an easy match. I had the break in the
third and in the second set in the key game, at 4-all," he said.
"But before he was serving well, so I didn't have the
possibility to have the break.
"Today was a good first round for me. Florian is a
tough first player to play against."
Nadal is bidding to win his second Australian Open after
beating Roger Federer for the 2009 crown.
His trademark never-say-die retrieving behind the baseline
was a feature as he fought for every point against Mayer.
Nadal broke Mayer's service in the ninth game of the final
set with a forehand winner and served out for a straight sets victory.