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Nadal Embracing Challenge To Improve

Shanghai, China

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is hoping to win the Shanghai Rolex Masters for the first time this week.

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal believes there is work to be done if he is to return to his level of 2010, when he won the Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open titles back-to-back. The Spaniard arrives at the Shanghai Rolex Masters on the back of his seventh final defeat of the season in Tokyo and on Tuesday confessed, "I believe Rafa 2010 had something more special than Rafa 2011, especially in tough situations.

"Winning or losing depends on very, very, very small things," expanded Nadal, who finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon and US Open finals. "And probably these very, very small things I did a little bit better in 2010 than 2011. It is hard to win big matches. I lost a lot of finals this year. This year I lost 7 out of 10."

Nadal did not agree with Andy Murray’s assessment that the level of the men’s game had gone up another notch this season, instead suggesting that he and Roger Federer had not been as good as in previous years, and therefore were unable to keep pace with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. "I don’t think the level has been better than 2010 or 2009. I think it has been similar," said the Mallorcan. "For my part and Roger's part a little bit worse for the moment.

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"I played worse than last year. I was very consistent, probably even more consistent than last year, but I played a little bit worse, I think. I think Roger played well, but he lost a few matches that in the past he never would have lost."

As is his wont, the 25-year-old Nadal is embracing the new challenge and, instead of concerning himself with the defeats he has suffered this season, is already thinking about how he can make the small improvements needed to return to the top of the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings.

"If you are not improving every year more and more, your chances are less," said Nadal. "Don't forget this is my seventh year on the tour being Top 2. That's happened because, first thing, I was in perfect conditions mentally all these years, but second thing because I always try to improve and play better and better. That's the goal and that's what I have to keep doing if I want to keep being here for long time.

"This is not one of the most demanding moments of the mental part for myself because I am happy about how I am doing," he explained. "I understand everything is a transition, everything is a part of your career. You cannot expect to play perfect every time. I did very well this year, not perfect. That's why I lost a few important matches. I understand that maybe that can be positive for the future or negative. You never know.

"The only thing that is going through my mind now is I have enough illusion to keep practising hard, enough motivation to keep trying my best and to keep finding solutions to be a better player for next year.

"Djokovic this year already won a lot of tournaments, three Grand Slams, he didn't lose matches. I don't believe that he changed his game unbelievably. He did a few small things better than a few years ago and that's why his big success this year. That's what I am going to try."

Nadal opens his campaign at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai against fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez

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