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By Erik Gudris | @ATNTennis | Sunday August 1, 2021

Nadal Citi Open

Rafael Nadal is ready to kick off his North American hardcourt swing at the Citi Open in D.C.

Photo Source: Christopher Levy

Rafael Nadal is ready to get back on the courts for the summer hard court swing after a long break.

Tennis Express

The 20-time major champion is making his Washington, D.C. debut this week at the ATP 500 Citi Open event. Fans lined up early in the morning to watch his first practice session on the stadium court; a quantifiable measure of the local excitement level on having Nadal at this tournament.

The 35-year-old Nadal, after his semifinal loss to eventual Roland Garros champion Novak Djokovic, did not play Wimbledon or the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Nadal gave a succinct reply on the reason for his absence at those events.

"My body decided for myself," Nadal said, referencing a foot issue that needed extra care and rest. Nadal added that he did not play tennis for 20 days after Paris.

Despite the break, Nadal expressed his readiness to play again and take in the Nation's Capital for his first-ever visit.

Nadal looked good in both of his practice sessions, including against rising American Sebastian Korda. Yet, Nadal is fully aware he needs to take each practice and subsequent match as building blocks to get him back in peak form.

"I still have couple of more days practicing here with the guys," he told reporters. "That's what I need today, play some sets, practice with the professional level guys. That going to help me, no? I don't know how long it will take to recover everything, but the only thing I can say is I'm here just to try my best in every single moment. I hope the last couple of days of practices keep helping me to be competitive enough for the first round."

Nadal is also eager to play again in North America with full crowds after missing last year's events due to the pandemic. That included a difficult decision not to defend his 2019 title at the US Open.

The four-time U.S. Open champion hopes to build momentum during this hard court swing in his hopes for yet another title in New York. He'll also be aiming to curtail Djokovic's quest for the calendar-year Grand Slam. The World No. 1 won the Australian Open, Roland Garros, and Wimbledon to become the first male player to win the first three majors of a tennis season since 1969. Nadal certainly thinks Djokovic has what it takes to complete the historic feat and become the first man to do so since legendary Aussie Rod Laver, who won all four in 1969.

"He's already won three of them. If you can win three, you can win four," Nadal said on Djokovic's quest. "He's 75 percent of the way there and he's playing on hard court his best surface, so why not? What he's achieved this year is something, well, amazing. Let's see. I definitely believe he can do it without a doubt."

After receiving a first-round bye, Nadal will face either Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka or U.S. wildcard Jack Sock in the second round on Wednesday.


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