Rafael Nadal puts fitness at the top of his priority list in Cincinnati

Rafael Nadal is keeping expectations in check while focusing on fitness as he prepares for the Cincinnati Masters. The world number three, who suffered an abdominal muscle injury in his Wimbledon semi-final with Nick Kyrgios, takes the second seed behind Daniil Medvedev in the American Midwest at the joint ATP and WTA tournament. With Novak Djokovic missing due to his refusal to get a Covid-19 shot, the 36-year-old Spaniard has one less dangerous opponent to face in the US Open tune-up.

Nadal could return to the top spot in the rankings for the first time since January 2020, which would mean a top seed at the US Open from August 29.

That could happen if he wins the title from Cincinnati and Medvedev doesn’t reach the quarterfinals.

But for Nadal it’s about staying healthy, dropping results where they can.

“Number one is nice but staying healthy is the most important thing,” Nadal said on Sunday. “I’m not aiming to be number one again.

“If it happens because I’m playing really well, it would mean a lot to have that opportunity.”

The 2013 Cincinnati champion said his goal will be to “stay healthy and finish the season playing where I want to play.”

“I won’t play more than what I think will work for my body.”

The Spaniard says that with a baby on the way, his playing schedule might have to be moderate.

“I’m happy to be in this position – if for some reason I went back to number one, I would be very happy.”

Nadal, who has implemented a brutal training schedule since arriving in Cincinnati midweek, said he was still feeling pain on serve due to his injury.

But he said obstacles are part of any comeback.

“You can’t expect to play at an incredible level immediately. You have to be humble and use the tools you have to win the first game,” Nadal said.

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“Once you win a few things change. I don’t always have good feelings on the court. You have to accept that things will be difficult at first.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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