Nadal still on rebound from Australian Open as he looks to defend title in Indian Wells
World No 1 in focused mode as he looks to put further distance between his loss and injury in Melbourne with desert raid
Rafael Nadal launched his Indian Wells ATP Masters title defence still feeling the sting of his loss to Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open tennis final.
"It was one of the toughest moments of my career," said the Spanish world No 1, who was hindered by a sore back in that four-set defeat by the in-form Swiss.
"It's tough to be there for an hour and a half knowing you will not win. Not winning is not the [worst] thing - [that is] knowing you will not compete."
Nadal acknowledged he didn't know if he would have been able to stop Wawrinka had he been free from injury, but it clearly still rankles that he didn't get a chance to find out.
"I never think about the losses, just a few hours then I forget and try to look to the next thing," he said. "But it's true that after that [a grand slam defeat] it takes a bit more time."
Nadal has already regrouped, winning a clay court title in Rio de Janeiro two weeks ago.
Now he's hoping for a title repeat on the hard courts in the southern California desert, where his triumph last year confirmed his return from a seven month injury absence.
It was the first of four hard-court titles he collected, among 10 trophies overall, in 2013. That win, he said, "gave me more confidence that I was ready to be back, to compete".
However, Nadal said 2014 is a new slate. Although his possible quarter-final clash with Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was the talk of the men's draw, Nadal said his most dangerous opponent was always the next one.
That will be Czech Radek Stepanek, who beat Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 to earn a shot at Nadal, who like all 32 men's and women's seeds in this combined ATP and WTA tournament enjoyed a first-round bye.
Murray, seeded fifth, arrived in California encouraged by his run to the semi-finals in Acapulco last week. "I feel good," said the Scot, who had back surgery in September. "I felt the best I have this year in Acapulco. I wasn't waking up stiff and sore like I had at the other events I played.
"My back feels the best it has since the surgery, that's, for me, exciting. I'm not that far away from where I want to get to."
Murray will open against Czech Lukas Rosol, after the latter beat Serbian Dusan Lajovic.