Rafael Nadal can't wait to get back on clay
Agence France-Presse in Los Angeles
Rafael Nadal says he still has work to do on his game as he gets set to launch his clay-court season, which he hopes culminates with his ninth French Open title.
World number one Nadal lost in straight sets in the final of the Miami Masters tournament on Sunday to second seed Novak Djokovic. Djokovic cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 win as he easily dismantled Nadal, who has been hampered by a back injury which wrecked his Australian Open bid earlier this year.
Thirteen-time grand slam winner Nadal said despite the loss, which dropped him to 0-4 in Miami finals, he feels good about having made it to the final in Miami.
"It is great that I am in the top of the race arriving to the clay-court season," Nadal said. "But now we start on clay and I need to be 100 per cent.
"I need to work hard and try to be in better shape for clay."
Miami is one of just three ATP Tour Masters 1000 events that Nadal has failed to win.
The left-handed Spaniard said he plans to remain in the US for a few days then fly back to Europe and head to Spain where he will train on the clay surface.
"To be able to play in the final here is a lot of points," Nadal said. "I had a few good matches so that gives me confidence to start a very important part of the season for me."
Asked if his back is still bothering him Nadal said, "No. I am fine. Thank you very much."
Nadal's success on clay has earned him the nickname "King of Clay". By winning last year's French Open, Nadal became the first player to win a single grand slam tournament eight times.
After Monte Carlo the players hit the clay the last few weeks of April and all of May in cities such as Barcelona; Oeiras, Portugal; Munich, Madrid and Rome.
Like Nadal, 17-time grand slam title winner Roger Federer is looking forward to feeling the clay under his feet.
The Swiss veteran said one of the best things about the clay swing is there is less distance to travel from tournament to tournament in Europe.
"I like the changes of continents and surfaces," said world number four Federer. "The next five, six months are going to be quite easy travelling-wise for us."
Federer lost to Japan's Kei Nishikori in the Miami quarter-finals and to Djokovic in the final at Indian Wells, California.
"The beginning of the year is tough when we go to Australia, and then the west coast and all of that; Dubai, as well," he said.
"The clay is something I have always actually enjoyed throughout my career. It's what I grew up playing on. It's where I played most of my tennis in my career."