Rafael Nadal looking to end 2009 on a high

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta

Rafael Nadal ready for US Open challenge

World number three Rafael Nadal has stated that New York is one of his favourite cities on the ATP tour, but the US Open is still the only Grand Slam to have evaded the 23-year-old.

This year got underway in predictably emphatic fashion for the Spaniard. He beat Roger Federer in five sets in the final of the Australian Open in January – his first Slam title on the hard courts – and most tipped the powerful Majorcan to continue his excellent form of 2008 – a year in which he had finally managed to dethrone Federer as king of Wimbledon.

But since his triumph in Melbourne, by his high standards this year has been disappointing.

His nagging tendinitis problem in his knees took its toll on the popular left-hander. He was knocked out in the fourth round of the French Open and lost his battle to be fit in time to defend his title as Wimbledon champion.

The two-month spell on the sidelines has seen Andy Murray claim the number two spot in the rankings, and it was the ever-improving Scot who knocked Nadal out of the US Open in the semi-finals last year.

But despite his persistent injury problem, Nadal still managed to rack up the 15th ATP World Tour title of his career in Rome, taking him to just two behind the all-time record holder Andre Agassi.

And it was at the Rogers Cup in Montreal earlier this month where Nadal made his return to competitive action.

He made it to the quarter-finals where he was defeated by Juan Martin Del Potro, but he was satisfied with his performance. “It’s normal. After two months out of competition it’s tough to play at that level.”

Nadal has never made it to a final at Flushing Meadows – a venue famous for its rowdy fans – but the world number three is not phased. “The crowd supports you or the other player. That’s always good for tennis.”

And despite many punters backing Andy Murray to claim his first Grand Slam, Nadal is under no illusions when it comes to his opinion on the favourite. “When one player won the last five years, he’s the favorite, no?” he said.

“Federer is the favorite. But a lot of players are doint well. Roddick is playing really well. Murray is doing really well and Djokovic always have his chances. He’s a good player. And I hope myself. Del Potro, too.”

The final Grand Slam of the year kicks off on August 31 and a successful run at the US Open is the perfect platform for Nadal to end 2009 on a high.

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