Nadal 'feeling better' now
While bitterly disappointed to stumble at the last hurdle of the Indian Wells ATP tournament, Rafa Nadal was in confident mood for the next event on the circuit starting this week in Miami.
The Spanish world number one was delighted to reach the final at Indian Wells, where he was beaten 4-6 6-3 6-2 by red-hot Serb Novak Djokovic, after an injury absence of more than a month from the ATP World Tour.
"The biggest and most important thing is I finished the week much better than I started," left-hander Nadal said.
"That's always a very good feeling and that's a lot of confidence for the next tournaments, starting right now. To start with a final after one month outside of competition ... is very positive so I am very happy for that."
In late January, Nadal suffered a leg injury at the Australian Open where he lost to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the quarter-finals and was sidelined for 10 days.
Thereafter, he competed in only two Davis Cup matches before returning to the circuit at Indian Wells where he beat qualifiers in his first three outings. He then battled past big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic in the last eight.
After showcasing his breathtaking speed across the court in a 6-4 6-4 victory over former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the semis, Nadal won the first set in the final before his service game inexplicably fell apart.
"When I was playing well in the first set, he was defending more than me and I was more inside the court," nine-times grand slam champion Nadal said of his impressive start against Serb Djokovic. "I was playing better than him in the beginning.
"After that, I started to serve really bad. He didn't have mistakes and he was more regular in his game. Always the better player wins and he was a better player than me in general.
"But the more positive thing is I played against a player who is playing better on the tour right now (than anyone else). When I played well, I didn't feel worse than him."
Australian Open champion Djokovic extended his perfect start to the season to 18-0, and 20-0 overall, although Nadal felt the Serb had not been at his very best during the Indian Wells final.
"It wasn't one of these matches (where) I see Nole (Djokovic) playing much better than me at the beginning, so I accept it and go home (defeated)," the 24-year-old Mallorcan said.
"I felt I really can win ... so I am a little bit sad for that (loss), but that's the game. I have to keep working on a few aspects of the game ... like my serve and my match intensity for a few moments."
After Sunday's final, Djokovic described his good friend Nadal as the greatest player of all time, lavish praise which put a broad smile on the Spaniard's face.
"Well, we have a very good relationship," Nadal said. "I am happy about what he said, and I say thank you to Novak.
"But it's not true, so ... ," he added, before pausing to laugh. "It's stupid. Thanks a lot to him for his words, but ..."