New Delhi, Dec 10 (IANS) Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal remained unassertive about adding to his formidable 14 Grand Slams but said here on Thursday he was hopeful of an “improved” next season after an eminently forgetful 2015. Nadal failed to win a single Grand Slam in a year for the first time in 10 years and slid to his worst ranking (No.10) in a decade, also relinquishing his stranglehold over French Open, falling in the quarter-finals to world No.1 Novak Djokovic. His sharp dip in form coincided with a struggle with injuries, but he arrested the decline in the latter half of the season in the World Tour Finals in London in November. That prompted a rise in his rankings to the No.5 position. But it was the first time in 10 years that he didn’t finish the season among the top three. The 29-year-old was optimistic of an improved form in the upcoming season and was banking on his new-found confidence after reaching the semis in London, eventually falling to champion Novak Djokovic. But he was less than forthcoming on questions regarding a 15th Grand Slam win, which will put him just behind 17-time Major winner Roger Federer.

“I don’t know when that will happen and I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” he said here. He is in the city to play in the second edition of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL). “The only thing I know is I’m working very hard to try to get the opportunities. This year has been not the best season possible. The last three months I think it was much better. Happy the way that I’m playing now. I need to keep going. I want to keep going the same way that I finished the 2015 season.” “I think that I improved a lot so much in the last tournament. That’s the way I’m going to keep working hard to try and continue with that level of the game,” he added. His woes deepened due to his persistent struggles with bothersome knee and foot complaints. He shook those hindrances to finish off on a brighter note but acknowledged a comeback from injuries has been difficult primarily because there is no time frame for attaining full fitness. “Always difficult to come back from injury. There is no reason why you come back sometimes faster and sometimes slower. When you are back, you need to accept the situation at the beginning, try to play with the best attitude possible,” the nine-time French Open winner observed. The “King of Clay” also revealed he isn’t entertaining the thought of splitting from his longtime coach and uncle Toni Nadal, like his great rival Roger Federer who parted ways with Stefan Edberg recently after two years. “At the end of the end, the secret is to have the right people around you. I was lucky to have for sure very good people around me. Without Toni, nothing would have been possible. I feel so lucky that I have somebody from my family that is my coach forever. That’s a big advantage, in my opinion,” the Spaniard said. “Try to have the right people about you. People who know about the sport, people who really support you and at the same time try to reach the best ever possible.” In his debut IPTL season, Nadal wished the very best to the tournament that gave him an opportunity to play in non-traditional tennis countries. He is also looking forward to his match-up against his great rival Roger Federer, against whom he has a 23-11 advantage in the head-to-head count. “The IPTL is a fantastic event, I’m enjoying so much. Hope the IPTL is going to be a success for many years. It’s a great opportunity to play in countries that we don’t play very often.”

“The rivalry with Roger has been great for a lot of years and we hope to keep playing some good matches and tomorrow, we are going to have another confrontation here in India. Will be a great scenario with a lot of fans. I’m delighted to be playing here against him,” offered the Manocor-based star.

    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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