(Dave Saffran/Sportsday Wire)
This Open is unusual for Rafael Nadal. The two time champion comes into Flushing Meadows the eight seed, which is the lowest he’s been for 11 years.
Of course, that’s better than last year when he had to pull out of the tournament because of an injury.
With all of that, does he feel any pressure?
“My stress is much less than it was at the beginning of the season,” he said. “I’m feeling better myself. As a tennis player, I’m feeling better today than I was a couple of months ago. I’ve worked a lot these last couple of months. I know the process; It’s a challenge for me to find the level of play that I’ve been at a lot of times in my career. I’m practicing great, now it’s time to play that great against the competition. The level of tennis is very close to being back there.”
Close but he will have to be on his game over the next two weeks to make any noise. In the first round, he’s playing Borna Coric. In the past, Nadal’s first round was pretty much cannon fodder, but now, being seeded so low, he has a tougher assignment.
“He’s a tough player<‘ Nadal said. “He’s a young player with a lot of energy and he’s a big competitor. He’s one of the players that is the future of our sport, so it’s a tough one, but I’m playing well. I feel like I’m ready.
“He’s a complete player with a great serve and a very good backhand. He’s a big competitor. I don’t remember playing him before. It was a tough week for me; I had the surgery the week after. I don’t remember it very well, but I think I played very bad. If he played well then he deserved to win, but hopefully Monday will be a different story.”
He’s doing anything to improve. He went back to his old racquet for the French Open after making a change at the beginning of the year. He said he’s starting to see some results.
“I’m playing well now with this racket,” he said. “I don’t know what will happen after, but today I feel that I am playing well with this; the only thing that remains are the results and I know that and I’m passionate about that.
“After a tough year for me, I feel that today I’m closer than ever to be at the level of tennis that I have been at in the past. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to win; that doesn’t matter because the level of competition and level of confidence I have on court are “wins.”
“In terms of tennis, I’m closer than ever to playing the level that I want to play.”
Over the next two weeks, we shall see if Nadal is a contender or if he will continue his struggles.