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Nadal to keep it simple in quest for 2014 success

Rafael Nadal says he does not need a legend to guide him on tour
Reem Abulleil

In the eyes and words of Rafael Nadal, tennis is a simple game. Perhaps the man he defeated yesterday to secure third place at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, would beg to differ.

The Frenchman was firing monstrous serves – on a surface that has been unanimously dubbed by the players as the fastest they’ve played on this year – including 14 aces but still could not prevent a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 defeat to Nadal.

 And while Nadal’s rivals like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have opted to bring in legends like Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker to reinforce their teams, Rafa is again keen to keep it simple and work with his tried and trusted team.

Nadal, who has been coached by his uncle Toni all his life, says he doesn’t need a tennis legend to guide him on tour. “My feeling is that is depends on the player,” said Nadal. “I think coaching tennis is not a big deal. We are not doing something very very difficult – tennis is a simple game at the end of the day.

“It’s more about the player believing in the work that his coach is doing. Some players need somebody who was a great champion in the past to believe in them. Someone for example like me, I don’t need to have a great champion in front of me coaching to believe that what that person is telling me is the right thing.

“So in my opinion it’s more about the player than the coach. In my case, I never needed a former champion to be my coach. What I’m saying is that there are different ways to have the right coach.”

Nadal, who had lost to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the semifinals on Friday, has admitted that he is not that far along in terms of his preparation for 2014.

After getting treatment on his knee a few weeks ago, the Mallorcan eased himself into practice and stepped up his training schedule over the few days here in Abu Dhabi. He says he felt better against Tsonga yesterday.

“A little bit better today compared to yesterday but there’s still things to improve,” Nadal conceded. “But in general, the court is so quick. So when you’re not at your 100 per cent, this speed is too much for me, but it’s okay. I was solid with my serve.

“In the first set there was no chance to return, his serve was huge, and the second I started to play more points when I was returning and I felt that with the backhand I started to find the feeling, tried to change a little bit more directions.”

It was Tsonga who had the first chance of the match, when he mustered a break point in the third game, but Nadal escaped with an error from his opponent and held serve for a 2-1 lead.

The match remained on serve until the tiebreak, with Nadal saving two more break points in game 11. They were neck and neck in the breaker but a double fault from Tsonga gave Nadal the edge and the Spaniard never blinked as he took the set.

The fast surface brought out some brilliant volleys from both players but Nadal had found his return in the second set and he broke for the first time in the match in the third game on his fourth chance for a 2-1 lead.

Tsonga was unable to retaliate and Nadal broke again in the ninth game to seal the win with a routine put-away at the net.