Tennis news - 'This is maybe the best I've ever played,' admits Nadal ahead of Djokovic showdown
Rafa Nadal has said he believes he may be playing the best tennis of his career as he prepares to face Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final on Sunday.
Despite a period of setbacks preceding the tournament, the Spaniard said he was pleased to have started the year well.
Speaking exclusively to Eurosport, the 32-year-old said: “Knowing that I started with a lot of points in the ranking, gives you peace of mind of being able to choose the calendar better and at the same time being able to measure your strength for the future.”
Reflecting on the four months leading up to the first Grand Slam of the season, a period in which he has been dogged by injury, Nadal said: “[the last four months] have been hard.
“Many things have been happening since the US Open in which I injured my knee,” he added.
Following this Nadal underwent surgery on his foot to remove a bone that had detached from his ankle, after which he was able to begin training again.
At the beginning of the year, he was then forced to withdraw from the Brisbane International, thanks to a quadriceps strain.
However, he said he was pleased with the progress he had been able to make in the pre-season, despite those setbacks.
“[In the pre-season] without having been able to do everything we would have liked, we have been able to do more than we could have expected - I felt prepared.
“I felt I was playing well and here in the tournament it has felt like that.”
He added: “I've played a fantastic tournament until this moment without any doubt, maybe the best I've played here in my career.
“This is very important to me. It is a satisfaction to see that work bears fruit.”
Nadal will face Djokovic for the 53rd time on Sunday, with the Serbian having won 27 of the previous encounters.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have faced each other 52 timesGetty Images
He said: “There was a time when he was dominating, another era was me and there have been very equal times.
“I think it has been a rivalry that has made us take our game to the limit almost always - it has made us better.”
Speaking of the 2012 Australian Open final, which Djokovic won and was the third straight major final match between the two, Nadal said: "It is one of the toughest matches I have ever played in my career.
"But even though it was a defeat that prevented me from winning a Grand Slam, I was satisfied with the level I played in the tournament and feeling that I was much closer than I had been the previous year."
Nodding to matches such as last year's Wimbledon semi-final in Wimbledon which Djokovic won, Nadal said: “In general we have played very exciting games.”
Looking ahead to the final on Sunday he added: “Tomorrow is going to be another one and let's see what happens.”