Rafael Nadal is back in the American swing of tournaments as the 2022 U.S. Open approaches at the end of the month.
The Spaniard, who is seeking his fifth U.S. Open title and 23rd Grand Slam victory, is heading to New York as one of the favorites to win the championship.
The only roadblock that may stand in the 36-year-old’s way is an ongoing abdominal tear he has been treating since Wimbledon and some other lingering injuries in his foot, wrist and hamstring.
Ahead of the U.S. Open, Nadal played at the Western & Southern Open, a warm-up tournament held in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Here’s everything you need to know about the match and what Nadal’s next step is:
How did Rafael Nadal do at the Western & Southern Open?
The world No. 3 took an early exit from the Western & Southern Open held in Cincinnati, Ohio, falling to No. 152 Borna Ćorić 6-7, 6-4, 3-6 on Wednesday night. This was the Spaniard's first match back since his retirement in the Wimbledon semifinals in July.
Nadal, who has been nursing an abdominal tear, said he was not too pleased with his performance in the tune-up event.
"Obviously I didn't play my best match," Nadal said after the match, revealing he was only able to play two practice sets in the buildup. "[It is] something that can happen. Historically this tournament has been difficult for me. So coming back from a tough period of time, [it is] something that's easy to accept and easy to say congrats to Borna, that he played better."
While the upset seems like a point of concern for the Spaniard, getting the opportunity to shake off some rust before the New York Slam will definitely pay dividends. Also, a two-out-of-three set match cannot be compared to the usual, three-out-of-five set match, which is where Nadal usually outshines his opponents.
How old is he?
Rafael Nadal is 36 years old.
Is Rafael Nadal playing the 2022 U.S. Open?
Rafael Nadal is set to play the 2022 U.S. Open, which is scheduled to begin on Monday, Aug. 29.
After his early exit at the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday, Nadal said his biggest priority is to stay healthy, which has not been the easiest thing.
"You lose, you move forward. I know the way," Nadal said after the loss. "The main thing for me is to stay healthy. It has been a difficult injury to manage, to be honest. The last month and a half hasn't been easy, because having a tear on the abdominal, you don't know when [you are]100 percent over the thing, so that affects a little bit in terms of not [being] sure if you are able to try your best in every serve."
Nonetheless, the Spaniard is excited to feed off the New York crowd and is setting his sights on earning his 23rd Grand Slam title.
"I need to move forward and just start to think about the energy that the crowd gives me in New York," he said. "I know it's a very special place for me, and I enjoy it. [I've had] unforgettable moments there, and I'm going to try my very best every single day to be ready for that."