MELBOURNE - Rafael Nadal said he would take inspiration from his titanic five-set Australian Open final defeat to Roger Federer on Sunday and hoped it meant a strong season ahead.

Nadal fought to the end of an epic match decided by a Hawk-Eye challenge in Federer's favour to end the three-hour, 38-minute struggle on Rod Laver Arena. Like Federer, the Spanish warrior is coming back from an injury-hit season last year and was a surprise finalist, helped by six-time winner Novak Djokovic's exit from his side of the draw. The 14-time Grand Slam champion said his overriding emotion was not one of sadness, but motivation to keep working hard to recapture his best form.

"Today I am enjoying the sport. Last year I only had the chance to enjoy the sport between Indian Wells and Madrid (March to May), because in Madrid I got injured in quarter-finals," he told reporters. That's the real feeling... more than titles, for sure I believe that I am going to win titles. More than all these kind of things is being healthy enough to work the way I need to work, to fight for the things I want to fight. I'm going to keep trying to do and to work the same way."

Nadal, whose ranking has climbed to sixth from his current nine as a result of making the Melbourne final, said he was encouraged by his run where he beat Alexander Zverev, Gael Monfils, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov to reach his 21st Grand Slam final. "I have big personal satisfaction. I cannot say that I am sad. I wanted to win, yes, but I am not very sad," he said. "I did all the things that I could. I worked a lot during all these months. I keep working, and I competed well. I enjoyed the competition. I won against the best players of the world, and I competed well against everybody. That's the most important thing for me, and that gives me confidence to keep playing, and that's what I'm going to try."

Nadal said that while he missed out on winning his 15th major title, there were other important considerations. "At the end of the day it's another title. There is a winner, there is a loser. In these kind of matches, anyone can win," he said.

In these kind of matches I have won a lot of times against him. Today he beat me. Just congratulate him.  “It's not more than another important title for him, another important two weeks for me. Even if didn't finish the way that I wanted, it has been an important two weeks for me. The only thing that I can do is congratulate him and go back home with very positive feelings for me."