Nadal is definitely back

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Nadal is definitely back

Rafael Nadal’s impressive return from a seven-month injury layoff, with a haul of nine titles including a French Open and an unbeaten 15-match hardcourt run, has made him a marked man at the US Open.

By (AFP)

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Published: Mon 26 Aug 2013, 2:52 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:36 PM

“Nadal is definitely back and he’s playing maybe the best tennis that he ever has played on hard courts,” said world number one Novak Djokovic. “He’s definitely so far the best player this year. There is no question about it. The results are showing everything.”

Rafael Nadal won titles in his US Open tuneups. — Getty Images

After healing the nagging knee injuries that have bothered him for years, Nadal dominated on his beloved clay with wins at Sao Paulo, Acapulco, Madrid, Rome, Barcelona and Roland Garros for his 12th career Grand Slam crown and eighth French Open title in nine years.

But what impresses his rivals on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts, where the year’s final Grand Slam event starts Monday, is his unbeaten run on hard courts, taking titles at Indian Wells and in August at Montreal and Cincinnati in his US Open tuneups. “He has beaten some tough players in tough tournaments,” defending US Open champion Andy Murray said. “It’s not like he’s had easy draws or whatever. He’s beaten some top, top players. Yeah, he’s going to be very difficult to beat here.”

Nadal, for his part, plays down the performance. “I had a great summer, but that’s all. Doesn’t mean nothing else,” Nadal said. “I hope to be very competitive for the first match.” Djokovic sees a more attacking Nadal adapting to the hardcourts to help ease the stress on his knees.

“He seems like he changed a little bit,” Djokovic said. “He stepped in a little bit more. He knows that now he has to be a bit more aggressive than he usually is because of, I guess, his knees and everything and because hard court is not clay. It’s not his favorite surface. It’s faster.

“I’m sure he worked on that and you could see that all the work he put in is getting results.”

And Roger Federer, who could face Nadal for the first time at a US Open in the quarter-finals, has been dazzled by Nadal’s performance. “I’m very impressed, especially seeing him play really well on the quicker hard courts,” Federer said.

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