PHOTOS/VIDEO: Rafael Nadal MEDIA DAY at Shanghai Rolex Masters 2017
SHANGHAI (AFP): World number one Rafael Nadal said on Tuesday he savours each victory more than ever after returning to peak form this year following a succession of injuries.
The 31-year-old Spaniard won his sixth title of the year on Sunday in Beijing, fresh from lifting his third US Open title.
Nadal's resurgence after injury is one of the tennis storylines of 2017 along with the similar rejuvenation of old rival Roger Federer.
Speaking at the Shanghai Masters, where Federer is also playing, Nadal said: "Of course it is a nice feeling (to win a tournament after injury).
"But it is a feeling that I already had a few times in my career. Of course it is not the positive thing, because it's better don't have injuries.
"But at the same time the injuries, the only positive thing about injury is when you come back and when you have success, you appreciate it even much more."
Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam winner who has suffered with knee problems for several years, plays unseeded American Jared Donaldson in his opener in Shanghai. The final is on Sunday.
He said on the eve of the match that he has learnt to adapt his playing style as he reaches the climax of one of the great tennis careers.
"Of course the essence of my game... is probably the same, but during the years and during your career, I always say the same, of course you lose things.
"On your way you lose things that you have when you are younger, so you need to act on other things to keep being competitive."
Q. After the last few years with injury, how do you compare the feeling when you win a tournament this year compared with before? Does it feel the same? Does it feel better?
RAFAEL NADAL: Of course it's important, no, for me. Always have been important. But at the same time is not the first time that I get injury and I win tournaments later, no?
Of course is a nice feeling, but is a feeling that I already had a few times in my career. Of course is not the positive thing, because is better don't have injuries, but at the same time the injuries -- the only positive thing about injury is when you come back and when you have success, you appreciate it even much more.
Q. Your current ATP ranking is No. 1. Do you consider the ranking as a motivation or a burden?
RAFAEL NADAL: Motivation or?
Q. Or a burden that gives you a lot of stress and pressure.
RAFAEL NADAL: Pressure. Ah, no. No, no. With 31 years old, no, no. No, not a motivation and not a pressure at all. Motivation, okay, during the year never was my goal to be where I am today, but of course I always say the same, no? Is much better be No. 2 than No. 3 and No. 1 than No. 2.
But is something that for me was not the main goal. The main goal for me is be healthy, be competitive all the weeks that I have been playing. That's something that happened this year, and that's the most important thing for me, no?
Now I am No. 1. Of course finish the year No. 1 is something a little bit different. And, yeah, if that happens, will be a great achievement but remain a lot and I need to play well.
Q. Hello, Nadal. I notice that a lot of people were watching your training. What do you think of Chinese fans?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, they are very passionate, no? Is great that we have good fans all around the world. Tennis is a global sport, and I think that's one of the keys of our success, like, in sport.
Here in this part of the world is good to be playing during some parts of the year, because the fans are very passionate and of course is special play in front of them.
Q. Roger yesterday said he thought maybe you would have withdrawn from Beijing because you had a lot to do after the US Open and then the Laver Cup, but that, as you are so professional, you went to Beijing and even won it. How did you feel coming into this Asian swing? As tired as Roger said, or...
RAFAEL NADAL: No, last week I was not tired. No, no, I was ready to play and I play. No, no, is an important part of the season, and if my body holds at important events, Beijing has been an event that I fighted to win for a while, so I was not able to make that happen. Finally I did this year.
Was important tournament for me, important moment, and am playing good tennis. And now here we are in Shanghai and is another important event for me. Is just another Masters 1000 that I gonna fight to be ready for compete the best way possible.
Let's see if I am able to make that happen. We practice now and hope to have the positive feelings and be ready for tomorrow. That's all. I go day by day, and my calendar always depends on my body feelings and my mental feelings. I felt ready to be here, and here I am. So what's go later, I don't know.
Q. Would you please share the story of last night, your Europe Team dinner?
RAFAEL NADAL: It was a good dinner between some colleagues of the tour that of course, when you are in the team for a while, the relationship become a little bit closer, and we had good feelings there in Prague.
Yesterday we had a good dinner, friendly dinner. Had fun. Was great to see the guys out there and see Björn, too. We had some fun. That's it.
Q. You have been turning back time this year. Do you ever go back and watch video of yourself when you were younger? If so, how do you compare yourself now? What do you think about your younger self playing?
RAFAEL NADAL: No one plays the same. No, no, you can put a video of Novak six, eight years ago and today and he's playing different. You can put the video of Federer, and it would be the same.
For me is the same. No, of course I'm not playing 100% the same. Of course the essence of my game, the (indiscernible) is probably the same, but during the years and during your career, I always say the same, of course you lose things. You know, on your way you lose things that you have when you are younger, so you need to act on other things to keep being competitive.
The best news for me is after a lot of years I still competitive, I still enjoying tennis. I think I am able to adapt my game to the new times. That's important thing for me, and I feel lucky for that.
But at the same time, I feel that I worked all my life with the right attitude and passion for and love for this sport to try to make that happen. Until when that gonna happen, I don't know, and it don't worries me much.