BRISBANE International defending champion Milos Raonic says he detected an newly elevated streak of aggression in Rafael Nadal’s play when they met in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Raonic arrived in Brisbane on a flight from Abu Dhabi, where he had an opponent’s eye view of Nadal’s comeback from a wrist injury in a three-set win for the Spaniard.
Nadal said last week he lacked confidence in his forehand after suffering the injury in May and played with less assertiveness.
“He played well and was trying to play more aggressive than before,’’ Raonic told The Courier-Mail.
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“He’s trying to create more than he has, trying to take the match into his own hands. I don’t think there was any sort of hindrance from an injury.’’
Raonic, the world No.3, said he felt he was playing better than he was in the corresponding stage of his 2016 Australian Open build-up, which brought him his only ATP title of the year, in Brisbane, and a semi-final run at Melbourne Park.
“Last year was very different circumstances when I went there (to Abu Dhabi) because I hadn’t played for a long time,’’ said the Wimbledon runner-up, who will play either American Sam Querry or Argentine Diego Schartzmann in his first match at Pat Rafter Arena after a round-one bye.
“This year was more about incorporating the things we’ve worked on over the off-season. I feel confident in the way I’m playing.’’
Raonic last month hired former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek to join his coaching team, releasing his 2016 coaching consultant Carlos Moya to join Nadal’s coaching set-up.
“Richard will be in Melbourne just before the beginning of the Australian Open,’’ he said.
Neither Krajicek nor Moya have ventured to the first ATP tournament of the year.
Krajicek was in Abu Dhabi, where Raonic lost his second and last match on Saturday to Andy Murray 6-3, 7-6.
“I’ve had the exhibition matches I needed,’’ Raonic said.
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