Doha - Rafael Nadal feels more confident about the Australian Open after winning the doubles title at the Qatar Open, but he cautioned that defeat in the year's first Grand Slam will not define his season.
The 14-times Grand Slam winner from Spain lost in the first round of the singles in Doha to Michael Berrer, a German qualifier ranked outside the top 100, but he sounded much more upbeat after his success in the final in partnership with Juan Monaco of Argentina.
"This has made it a positive week and I am going to be better prepared for Australia after winning this," Nadal said after the 6-3, 6-4 win with which he and Monaco beat Julian Knowle and Philipp Oswald of Austria.
"By playing doubles I can evolve quicker with my movement, even if it is different from singles. It helps the singles, and it helps to get the feeling of winning again, especially with a friend."
One of Nadal's biggest problems, apart from needing to recover physically and mentally after an appendectomy, and perhaps from ongoing back and wrist injuries, is that he has had very few matches since Wimbledon back in July.
"I am going to be better prepared not only because of extra matches but because I have also been doing the right things, practising for two hours every day.
"I want to arrive in Australia being competitive, that's my goal," he said, appearing to quash his suggestion after his loss to Berrer that he was unsure whether he would be ready to compete in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year at all.
"You can win, you can lose, but I am doing all the things I need to be ready for the action. It's a big motivation to be back at my best level as quickly as possible, and that's what I am trying to do."
However, Nadal added that he still may not be 100 percent ready for the Australian Open when it begins in Melbourne in just 10 days' time.
"If someone tells you they know how quickly they will recover they are lying," he warned.
"No-one knows that. No-one knows when they will be back at their level. I only know I have to keep working hard to be ready for Australia. But if that doesn't happen, I just have to work hard to be back for real."
The American hardcourt tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami (in March and April) are important to him as is the French Open, in May and June and where he will be aiming for a 10th title.
"Every time I am playing matches that is important for me," he emphasised.
"Australia is very important, but after a long time out my vision is more global. I will try to be back for Australia, but my season doesn't end there."