Rafael Nadal admitted yesterday he’s feeling “scared” over his first appearance in a decade at the Swiss Indoors tournament with the shadow of unavoidable appendix surgery hovering over the great Spaniard.
Nadal, who last played in Basel in 2004 and stands 0-2 in the hometown of top seed and longtime rival Roger Federer, starts the tournament today against a qualifier.
The 28-year-old, nine-time French Open champion has been on a regime of antibiotics which will hopefully help him postpone the appendectomy surgery for a few more weeks.
“It’s going to be one of the most dangerous first rounds in a 500 tournament that I’ve played in a long time,” admitted Nadal after a two-hour hit at the St Jakobshalle yesterday.
“I am not 100 per cent sure what is going to happen tomorrow. I haven’t practised well enough or enough times. My body feels more tired than usual when I’m playing.
“Practising is one thing, competing is another. When you compete you have the adrenaline, the heart goes faster, and I don’t know how my body is going to answer.
“I’m a little bit scared about how my body is going to react. Some of my injuries have been after antibiotic treatments.
“Hopefully that won’t be the case this time.”
Nadal has been told by doctors that he is safe to play despite the appendix problem which flared during the recent Asian ATP swing.
It is a problem which marks just another in a string of career setbacks for the world number three.
But Nadal remains optimistic, even if he may believe his trophy chances are slim at an event where Federer has won the title five times.
“This week will help to improve my indoor game. I haven’t played during this week in the past years, so that’s a plus,” suggested Nadal. “It will be a tough comeback but I try to stay positive.
“Injuries are part of sports and a big part of my career. I take it day by day. I don’t know whether I will be able to play on top when I’m 33 (as Federer is doing).
“I’m just thinking about tomorrow,” he added.
WTA Tour Finals contenders Eugenie Bouchard and Ana Ivanovic talk ahead of this week's tournament in Singapore.
They are the two youngest players to qualify to the WTA Finals in Singapore but they couldn’t be more different.
Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard, who are making their debut at the year-end championships, have both enjoyed breakthrough seasons in 2014, each coming runner-up at a grand slam – the former at Roland Garros and the latter at Wimbledon – but they’ve each taken to the spotlight in contrasting ways.
Halep, 23, has mentioned throughout the year that the glitz and glamour that comes with being successful is something she needed to get used to. On Saturday afternoon, she had to dress up – along with her fellow finalists – for the draw ceremony before heading to the players’ party.
“I'm more natural with these events now but it's not easy,” admits Halep, who faces Bouchard in their first round robin match at the Singapore Indoor Stadium today.
“Before coming here I took like three dresses with me, so I thought that I’m going to a wedding or something,” the Romanian added jokingly.
With Bouchard, the 20-year-old Canadian has already been dubbed the WTA’s new pin-up girl and seems to have no problem with the glamorous side of her job.
She was chosen to launch the WTA Finals way back in January, where she joined Chris Evert in several promotional activities in Singapore. It was the extravagance of this city, with its fancy hotels and bright lights, that gave her the motivation to fight hard and qualify to the Finals.
“It's the craziest thing, because I was with Chrissy in this exact room at this table in January launching the WTA Finals and the Road to Singapore,” Bouchard said yesterday in a press conference at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands.
“Being here in January motivated me so much. It was an amazing city, and seeing the glamorous side of what the Finals are inspired me so much to try and make it here. So crazy that I'm back here. Just proud of how I got here.”
Halep peaked at No2 in the rankings earlier in the year but is down to No4. She had a phenomenal first half of the year, reaching the quarters in Australia, the final in Paris and the semis in Wimbledon – where she lost to Bouchard – but has struggled with injuries since then.
She says the thought of becoming world No1 in the future is not currently on her mind, tip her hat to Serena Williams’ dominance.
Asked what was the greatest lesson she has learned from her roller coaster 2014, Halep said: “To take care more of my body because I didn't do the right thing maybe always. In Wimbledon I should have put the tape on the left ankle because on grass it is difficult always.
“But I learned many things. Just to be very positive every match and every tournament to be a goal. For the next year this will be my dream. To be positive and every tournament to be a goal. Because you have to play every match, and every match is important in your career.”
Halep said she has nothing to lose at this tournament and is hoping to give her best, especially as she’s barely just recovered from a hip injury.
Meanwhile Bouchard is feeling no insecurities being the youngest in the draw and making her first appearance in the event. She insists she feels at home amongst the world’s elite.
“I totally feel like I belong (here),” said the Montreal native.
“I think my performances this year have proved that. I feel like I've been able to play well, raise my level in big matches, at late stages of grand slams. So therefore, I've earned the right to be here.
“I feel so excited to be here. To be part of the best players in the world is a great thing and an accomplishment on its own. But I don't want to be happy with just participating this week. I want to try to do my best and try to end the year with some good matches.”