World number one Rafael Nadal vowed to raise his game in the ATP Cup knockout stages after overcoming an error-strewn performance against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka on Wednesday.
The 19-time Grand Slam winner made 36 unforced errors before beating Nishioka 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
Unbeaten Spain who won the revamped Davis Cup in Madrid in November finished top of Group B with world number 10 Roberto Bautista Agut downing Go Soeda 6-2, 6-4 to secure the tie.
Nadal then teamed up with Pablo Carreno Busta to complete the sweep with a 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 10-6 victory over Go Soeda and Ben McLachlan in the doubles.
Nadal has yet to drop a set in the singles but he looked sluggish at times ahead of the Australian Open, where he could equal Roger Federer’s record tally of 20 Grand Slam titles.
The Spaniard, however, believed he was rounding into form.
“I think it’s been a positive week for me winning against three tough opponents, It’s going to be tough in Sydney. I really hope to be ready to increase my level.”
The long exchanges against an unwavering Nishioka seemed to take a physical toll on Nadal, who appeared weary in Spain’s first day-session tie in the hot Perth conditions.
“It was my first experience (this season) with the heat here in Australia, so we played under heavy conditions and it was tough,”he said.
Nadal struggled to find his rhythm against the defensive prowess of 24-year-old Nishioka, who counter-attacked superbly to break twice in an engrossing first set but couldn’t close it out in the 10th game.