Nadal determined to recover 'mental strength'
Mental strength, tolerance of suffering, and passion - Rafael Nadal feels all that was missing from his game in 2011, and he wants to recover it in three weeks, when the 2012 season begins.
"I am looking forward to rising above the past few months, which were not positive," the Spanish tennis player said in an interview with dpa.
"I have lacked a bit more passion for the game, intensity in my strokes, strength in my legs and mental strength. But the most important thing that is missing is mental strength, which makes all the rest possible."
Unlike some other elite athletes, Nadal feels no need for a psychologist.
"I have never used one and I'm not planning to use one. I obviously respect the work of psychologists, but not for playing tennis."
This year was a strange one for Nadal. He played 10 finals, but lost seven, six of them to Serbian Novak Djokovic, something that had never happened to him with any other player in a single year.
However, the world No 2 says his motivation for 2012 is not based on trying to get even with Djokovic, on trying to win Olympic gold in Wimbledon or on reconquering the No 1 ranking.
"This will be a year for bettering myself internally. Not for beating Djokovic or anything like that. It is a question of going beyond myself personally, all the rest is secondary. The problem is internal, it is about personally wanting to take a step further, again."
It seemed this year as if Nadal was drained of energy, perhaps victim of an ambition and a pressure which no human can overcome.
"Nothing is enough, is it? Nothing is enough, not for the others, but for oneself. One's demands on oneself surpass even one's own reality," admits the six-times Roland Garros champion, who rejects the theory of German former tennis player Boris Becker.
The three-times Wimbledon champion believes Nadal played in 2011 tactically well until the finals, but then made the error of using his forehand against Djokovic's backhand, the Serbian's best stroke.
"That is too simple. I think it is not like that. I have not been up to it sometimes this year, and against him, I have not played at the level at which I played at other times, that is the reality."
At 25, Nadal has been a tennis professional for almost a decade. But he plans to play several seasons more. "I trust that I still have years left."
The Spaniard has recurrent problems with his knee and foot, but he downplays them. "Over the last seven years, it has often been said that I had injuries, or whatever. It is true I have obviously had physical problems, but if I had had some serious physical problem, I could not have been among the top two players in the world for the last seven years."
Despite his intense rivalry with Federer, Nadal has a notably good relationship with the Swiss player. "I am fond of him," the Spaniard says, without abandoning his dream of one day playing a doubles tournament with Federer.
"I think it will happen one day, but obviously, time passes."
In addition to being rivals on the tennis court, Nadal and Federer disagree about the future of tennis, including the choice of Adam Helfant's successor at the ATP.
Federer chairs the players' council, with Nadal as vice-president. They did not discuss their disagreements in public until the London Masters, when the Swiss player expressed views that differed from Nadal's.
Before the Spaniard flew to Seville for Davis Cup finals against Argentina, the two met to speak about their disagreements concerning the ranking system and complaints about extending the season, which prompted some players - including Nadal - to propose a boycott at the recent US Open.
"He has his ideas as the council president, I as the vice-president have other ideas, obviously. It is not that my or his ideas are bad. We need to justify them. Why one does not like the two-year ranking and why one does, why one does not want to stage a boycott...And I don't want to, either, there will not be any kind of a boycott, at least now it is very far away."
On a different note, Rafael Nadal also says he feels "ashamed" of having a bodyguard in public places.
"It is true that sometimes, it is necessary to be accompanied by people who protect you, but it is nevertheless exaggerated and makes me feel embarrassed."