London - It seems hard to believe that only six months ago Andre Agassi was predicting Rafa Nadal would complete a calendar grand slam in 2009.
Agassi's statement proved to be the kiss of death for Nadal's season as instead of emulating the feat last achieved by Australia's Rod Laver 40 years ago, his winning run instantly dried up and he failed to win a title since May.
The year that started with much promise when he captured the Australian Open crown before adding another four titles in the space of 14 weeks, ended with a whimper on Wednesday as he became the first player to be eliminated from the ATP World Tour Finals.
Two straight set defeats means the Spaniard has no chance of progressing any further in the elite eight-man event even if he beats Novak Djokovic in his final round robin match on Friday.
Despite his barren spell over the past six months, he had arrived in London with a realistic chance of grabbing the year-end top ranking from French Open and Wimbledon champion Roger Federer.
But Nadal barely looked like a man capable of climbing to the summit of his sport in his match against Nikolay Davydenko on Wednesday and he said reclaiming the world number one ranking had not been his top priority this week.
"I didn't come here to be number one. It wasn't my goal because I'm not playing well enough to be number one right now," he told reporters after his 6-1 7-6 defeat by Davydenko.
"If I'd won the Masters (ATP Finals), I would have arrived at next week's Davis Cup (final against the Czech Republic) with more confidence. I would prefer to get there in my best moment and I'm working hard to get my confidence back."
Lack of confidence is what Nadal has struggled with ever since his four-year reign at the French Open was abruptly ended by Robin Soderling in the Roland Garros fourth round.
He then missed the defence of his Wimbledon title as he tried to overcome a bout of tendinitis and returned to the tour in August, though has failed to dominate as he once did.
While other top players like Federer and Djokovic look forward to taking a break from the rigors of the tour, Nadal has no intentions of putting his feet up during the off season.
"I've had enough breaks this year. Too much, in my opinion," he smiled about his eight-week absence from the tour.
"I'm ready to practice hard. I have motivation to play my best tennis. When you have this goal and you have this motivation, doesn't matter if you are tired or not. So I am ready to start practicing and to start playing in 2010.
"I don't know how far I am from my best. The important thing is when this change happens, I'll be ready for it."
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