PARIS (AFP) – Rafael Nadal said on Monday that he is ready to consolidate his year-end number one ATP ranking by winning his opening match at the Paris Masters.
But the 31-year-old Spaniard – who is also trying to balance the delicate political situation in his native country with his status as an international sportsman – refused to hype up his potential coronation.
“I need to win a match. I m here to try my best – as in every tournament,” he said before starting as top seed in the event which is missing Roger Federer due to fatigue.
“Hopefully if this (number one) happens, it will be something important for me.
“But the season is not over and it s not the moment to think much about that.
“I ll just try to think about trying to have the right preparation for the tournament and then try to be ready for the first match.”
Nadal, who reclaimed the top ranking in August for the first time in three years, is due to start at Bercy against South Korea s Hyeon Chung, who opened on Monday with a 6-0, 6-2 first-round defeat of German Mischa Zverev.
Federer is skipping Paris after winning back-to-back titles in Shanghai and Basel and is resting to be prepared for the ATP Finals starting in less than a fortnight in London.
Nadal, who withdrew from Basel with a knee problem, does not fault his main rival for looking after personal interests.
“Everyone makes the calendar which he thinks will be the best for him,” Nadal said. “For him, everything was working well that way. He had a little bit better chance, of course, if he came here. But you never know.
“You would think that he would have more points if he had played on clay. But you never know (that) if he played on clay if he would win Wimbledon or he would be able to play as well as he did.
“He took his decisions and he did it well. Probably after winning Shanghai and winning Basel he believes that will be better for his body and for his preparation for London to not be here, to rest.”
Ten-time Roland Garros champion Nadal said that he is hoping to do well in “the most important city for my career”.
Questioned about the political situation in his native Spain between Madrid and Catalonia, Mallorcan islander Nadal, also a Catalan speaker, was notably circumspect.
“In my situation it s very difficult to answer these kind of things because things are, let s say, sensitive in my country.
“Anything that I can say will not go the right way. The real thing for me (is that) it s a sad situation and at the same time a difficult situation; it s difficult (for me) to talk 100 percent freely.
“I want the things to get better. I don t want the fracture between people in Catalonia. I feel close to Catalonia. I love the people in Catalonia, and most of the Spanish people feel the same.
“Love from the rest of the Spanish country, it feels love for Catalonia and that s it. And that s the reason that s why we are sad about that situation.”