Second seed Rafael Nadal believes he is feeling physically stronger ahead of the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers as he continues to manage a foot injury that has plagued him since Roland Garros.
The Spaniard has won Canada’s ATP Masters 1000 event five times, capturing back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019. However, Nadal is focusing on gradual improvement on the eve of the tournament in Toronto.
“I am going day by day,” Nadal said in his pre-tournament press conference. “The main thing is to try and feel I am improving and feel I am playing better and better, which is the goal at this tournament.
“I need to have a couple of weeks with less pain to have the confidence again with my movement. I am coming here to try and win, but also to keep feeling positive with my foot. I am not at my peak yet, but I have been practising better than I played in Washington, so I am excited to play here. Hopefully, I will be able to compete well.”
Nadal has been managing his foot injury since June when he reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros. The Spaniard returned last week at the Citi Open for the first action since Paris. Nadal defeated Jack Sock but fell to Lloyd Harris in the third round. However, the Spaniard left Washington with fewer injury concerns than when he arrived.
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“I couldn’t practise for a couple of weeks [after Roland Garros],” Nadal said. “It was around 20 days without a racquet trying to recover. Also, [it was difficult] mentally as well. I didn’t play well enough [at Roland Garros].
“Last week in Washington, the first round was tough with my foot, but in the second round, I felt a little bit better. Even if I lost, that is a positive thing for me. It is about trying to find the routine again on court. Trying to be competitive again. I need to have the feeling of playing a few days in a row without any problems.”
Nadal, who will begin against South African Harris or a qualifier, captured his first National Bank Open Presented by Rogers title in 2005 in Montreal, with Toronto sharing hosting duties with the Quebec City. As he aims for a Canada Masters 1000 hat-trick this coming week, having captured the trophy in 2018 and 2019, the 35-year-old is happy to be back in Canada where he has experienced so much success.
“I am happy to be here,” Nadal added. “It is a place where I have had a lot of success in the past and many good memories.