Nadal fit and ready for hardcourt challenge at U.S. Open

Saturday, 2019-08-24 07:11:02
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FILE PHOTO: Aug 11, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Rafael Nadal from Spain hits a shot against Daniil Medvedev from Russia (not pictured) during the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Stade IGA. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
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Rafa Nadal was forced out of the US Open last year in the semi-finals with a knee injury but the in-form Spaniard on Friday declared himself fit and ready for the punishing hardcourts at Flushing Meadows.

Nadal’s hopes of defending his 2017 US Open title last year were crushed when his chronic knee issues forced him to retire while trailing Juan Martin del Potro 7-6(3) 6-2 after a number of long and gruelling matches.

Yet Nadal, whose US Open tune-up this year featured a victory in Montreal, where he earned a record-extending 35th ATP Masters 1000 title, arrives at the year’s final Grand Slam feeling much better about his health.

“My feeling on the knees are better this year than last year. Last year the problem was I played three or four very, very long matches. That’s tough,” Nadal said during a US Open Media Day inside Louis Armstrong Stadium.

“I hope to be ready for it. I think I am playing well. I am practicing the right way during these days. Of course, winning in Montreal helps. I am ready for the action.”

Those are encouraging words for Nadal, who last year showed signs of distress almost from the start of his semi-final as he limped noticeably, grimaced with every sudden move and called for the trainer during a changeover in the second set.

The 33-year-old Spaniard, who cited fatigue as his reason for skipping a US Open warm-up in Cincinnati after winning in Montreal, said he has been focused on arriving in New York and adapting to the conditions.

Nadal, who would move to within one Grand Slam of Roger Federer’s all-time record 20 with a triumph in New York, said he has practiced well all week and is brimming with confidence.

“My last events have been win Rome, win in Roland Garros, semi-finals in Wimbledon, and winning Montreal,” said Nadal.

“That’s a positive feeling, positive memory on my mind. That helps for the confidence, helps for the positive feelings.”

Family vacation has Federer ready for charge

Roger Federer needed a couple of days to get over his heartbreaking Wimbledon final loss but a family caravan vacation around the Swiss countryside proved the perfect tonic.

FILE PHOTO: Aug 13, 2019; Mason, OH, USA; Roger Federer (SUI) returns a shot against Juan Ignacio Londero (ARG) during the Western and Southern Open tennis tournament at Lindner Family Tennis Centre. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

Federer, who will chase a record-extending 21st Grand Slam title at the Aug. 26-Sept. 8 US Open in New York, struggled with the five-set defeat to Novak Djokovic for a short time, but could not dwell on the missed opportunity.

“I was setting up tables and organising my life for my four children, driving around the beautiful countryside in Switzerland,” Federer said on Friday at a US Open Media Day inside Louis Armstrong Stadium.

“Sometimes you have flashbacks, things like, ‘Oh, I could have done that’, ‘should have done that’.

“The next day you’re having a glass of wine with your wife thinking, ‘The semis was pretty good, even the finals was pretty good’. You go in phases.”

Federer produced a vintage display to beat old rival Rafa Nadal in the last four at Wimbledon but in the final he failed to convert two championship points on his own serve in the fifth set against Djokovic.

Since then, Federer has played one US Open tune-up event, where he suffered a shocking and swift third-round humbling at the hands of Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev.

Yet despite playing just two hardcourt matches ahead of the year’s final Grand Slam, the 38-year-old Swiss said he is happy with where his game is at and has actually taken positives from his Wimbledon letdown.

“I’ve been playing well. Playing well in slams recently, which has been great,” said Federer. “I think also the win over Rafa in the semis was big for me. Also the finals, the way I played that in Wimbledon, is going to give me some extra confidence.”

Federer won five consecutive US Open titles from 2004-2008 but has not enjoyed much success here recently as he struggled with the heat in a fourth-round loss last year and in 2017 battled back issues during his run to the quarter-finals.

“I’m not putting extra pressure on myself. I know it’s going to be tough,” said Federer, who will face a yet-to-be named qualifier in the first round.

“I’m not coming in as the overwhelming favorite like maybe I did back in 2006 or 2007. I’m very much aware of how I need to approach this tournament mentally.

“It’s going to be a tough tournament to win, no doubt about it. I feel like I’m part of that group who can do it.”