Nadal eyes 23rd major as Djokovic clings to forlorn US Open hope

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Rafael Nadal targets a fifth US Open and 23rd Grand Slam title in New York from next week as Novak Djokovic clings desperately onto a forlorn hope of even being allowed to set foot in New York.

Nineteen years after making his debut, the 36-year-old Nadal drags his injury-prone body into a tournament he won in 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2019, the year of his last appearance.

The Spaniard has had to sit out the US Open four times in his career and there are once again fresh doubts over his physical ability to survive a gruelling two weeks at Flushing Meadows.

Since an abdomen injury forced him to hand Nick Kyrgios a walkover into the Wimbledon final, Nadal has played just once — a first-up loss to Borna Coric in Cincinnati. “I need to move forward and just start to think about the energy that the crowd give me in New York,” said Nadal, who has already captured two of the season’s three Slams at the Australian and French Opens.

“It’s a very special place for me, and I enjoy it. There have been unforgettable moments there, and I’m going to try my very best every single day to be ready for that.”

Nadal has become accustomed to overcoming setbacks, winning a 14th French Open in June de-spite playing the whole tournament with pain-killing injections in his foot.

An added incentive for Nadal is the opportunity to reclaim the world number one spot from defending champion Daniil Medvedev, the man he defeated in the 2019 final. While Nadal trains in New York, career-long ri-val Djokovic remains in Europe, steadfastly refusing to withdraw from the tournament in the hope of a last-minute change of policy by the US authorities.—APP

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