The Spaniard says that his defensive skills weren't polished enough to allow him to play at Djokovic's level on Sunday in Melbourne

Photo: Mark Peterson/ Corleve

Rafael Nadal worked extremely hard to give himself a shot to win this year’s Australian Open. The 17-time major champion beefed up his serve and his overall aggression in order to minimize his time on court and his plan worked to perfection as he raced through six rounds down under without dropping a single set. But Nadal says that there was one thing missing from his game in Australia, and it left him exposed against Novak Djokovic in the final: DEFENSE.

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“I think I was playing great during the both weeks in offensive positions,” Nadal told reporters on Sunday night. “In defensive positions, I practiced what I practiced. I practiced well, very well I think, but because of the things that happened to me in terms of surgery, then what happened in Abu Dhabi, I was not able to work that much the defensive game. I worked a lot on the offensive game, but not that much on the defensive game.”

Nadal had off-season ankle surgery and was in a rush to return to form in January. He was forced to withdraw from a match at Abu Dhabi in late December then pulled out of Brisbane in early January.

Tecnifibre T-Fight

Nadal says he felt like a defensive base would have given him a better chance to employ aggression on his terms in the final, but Djokovic’s absurd level would not let him do that.

“To play against a player like him, playing the way he played tonight, I needed that defensive game to finally have the chance to be offensive, no?” he said. “When he was hitting, is true that maybe was difficult to beat him even if I was at my 100%. But probably will be a little bit more fight.

Still Nadal has to be pleased with his effort and the fact that he finished the tournament without aggravating any injuries. He will begin this week at No.2 in the rankings, 2,635 points behind No.1 Djokovic.

“I played fantastic tennis during both weeks, is true, but probably playing that well, I didn't suffer much during the both weeks,” Nadal told reporters after the final. “Five months without competing, having that big challenge in front of me, I needed something else. That something else probably today, I don't have it yet. That's my feeling, to compete at this super high level.”