Rafael Nadal

Madrid, May 6 (IANS) Spain’s Rafael Nadal has said he was approaching next week’s Madrid Open, which he has won on four occasions, with the same ambition as always.

The 30-year-old Nadal, who is enjoying a resurgence in 2017, is seeking to win the Monte-Carlo Masters, Barcelona Open and the Madrid Open in the same year for the second time in his career, the first time being in 2005, reports Efe.

“I’ve come here with the same hopes as always and to give my all. Playing at home is very special, and Madrid is one of the places in the world where the fans have shown me the most affection and have helped me win difficult matches,” he said on Friday.

The Kia Motors global brand ambassador made his remarks in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcon, where the South Korean automaker on Friday inaugurated its largest dealership in Europe.

The fifth-ranked Nadal said he had been unfairly criticised for his patchy results in recent years, when it had seemed his career might be in irreversible decline.

“It’s totally logical that people talk and give their opinion. But they also have to analyse things, especially those who write for a living,” the 14-time Grand Slam champion said, noting that his ranking had never dipped below No. 10 even in the depths of his struggles in mid-2015.

“It’s true that last year I wasn’t playing as well as this year, but it’s the same as always. The key is to have that desire to keep going, to do what motivates you, and the main thing is to be healthy. Because if you’re not, it’s impossible.”

The fourth-seeded Nadal will kick off his Madrid campaign against the winner of a first-round match pitting Italy’s Fabio Fognini against Portugal’s Joao Sousa.

Looming as a potential third-round opponent is 21-year-old rising Australian star Nick Kyrgios, the No. 16 seed, while if Nadal can navigate his draw he could face Canada’s Milos Raonic, a big server who could pose problems in the fast conditions of a city 667 meters (2,188 feet) above sea level, and then Serbian defending champion and No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.

“The draw is quite tough, but it helps that since January I’ve been doing things well,” he said, referring to his runner-up finishes at three hard-court events – the Australian Open, Acapulco and Miami – and his titles at the Monte-Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open.

If he can come out on top next week in the Spanish capital, it would be his first time winning those three tournaments — all key tune-up events for the French Open — in the same year on clay.

When he won the 2005 Madrid tournament, it was an indoor hard-court event played in October.

    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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