ACAPULCO, Mexico – Spanish world No. 2 Rafael Nadal, who makes his return to the ATP World Tour on Monday at the Mexican Open in Acapulco, Mexico, said being happy was more important at age 31 than regaining the top spot in the rankings.
“At this point in my career, what I’m looking for is to be happy and I play the weeks that make me happy ... reaching No. 1 or No. 5 depends on how much I play and the level,” the 16-time Grand Slam champion said in a press conference on Sunday.
Nadal, who has not played since being injured at the Australian Open, will play 36-year-old countryman Feliciano Lopez, the world No. 37, on Monday.
“I’m happy at 31 and I still have the desire to be competitive to fight for what motivates me,” Nadal said.
Nadal was forced to retire from his Australian Open quarterfinal match against Croatia’s Marin Cilic on Jan. 23 due to a leg injury, marking only the second time that he has been forced to call it quits at a Grand Slam event.
The Spanish star is seeking his third title of the year at the ATP 500 event in the Mexican Pacific resort city.
Nadal, who won titles in Acapulco in 2005 and 2013, would retake the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings from Swiss great Roger Federer if he wins the hard-court event.
The Spanish star said he had a short-term focus in dealing with the season.
“Right now, I’m happy to be in Acapulco. I can’t plan things months ahead of time,” Nadal said.
The Mexican Open, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, will have seven of the top 10 players in the world in the men’s draw.
The tournament, an ATP 500 event, offers $1.78 million in prize money.