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Nadal hopes to challenge Medvedev in Toronto

By AFP - Aug 09,2021 - Last updated at Aug 10,2021

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates a shot during a match against Jack Sock of the US during the Citi Open in Washington, DC, on August 4 (AFP photo by Mitchell Layton)

TORONTO, Canada — Rafael Nadal will count upon day-to-day improvement for a long-term foot injury if he is to fight for the title when the ATP Toronto Masters begins on Monday.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has won five Canadian titles, including the 2018 and 2019 editions. The event was not held in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The 35-year-old Spaniard remains concerned about a long-term foot injury that flared up at Roland Garros in May and kept him away from Wimbledon and the Olympics.

“It has been a couple of tough months for me with physical issues,” Nadal said on Sunday ahead of his most successful hardcourt stop.

Nadal, the Toronto second seed, won his comeback match on Wednesday in Washington but would open in Toronto against 50th-ranked Lloyd Harris, who eliminated him at the US capital, if the South African beats a qualifier in his opener.

“I’m not at a peak but I’m training better here than in Washington,” Nadal said. “I’m excited to keep going here and play a little better — I want to compete well.”

Olympic quarter-finalist Daniil Medvedev heads a depleted field at an event which is missing two of the “Big 3” players.

With World No. 1 Novak Djokovic giving the week a miss after his frustrating medal-less performance at Tokyo and Roger Federer still out with his lingering knee problems, Medvedev and Nadal head the seedings.

Other absentees include Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev, injured US Open winner Dominic Thiem and Italian Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini.

Young Italian Lorenzo Musetti was arbitrarily dismissed from qualifying rounds by officials after violating the strict player COVID-19 lockdown protocols.

Medvedev’s way will not be eased by what is forecast as summer heat up to 30ºC in Canada. The Russian made his dissatisfaction known at the Olympics, where he had to compete in torrid conditions which he said had threatened his health.

“Tokyo had some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever played in,” he said on Sunday.

“The heat and the humidity was something quite special. The body is not used to it.

“That’s why I was suffering. But [after training this week in Florida heat] I feel very good coming, especially physically.”

The 25-year-old owns three ATP 1000-level trophies as well as the London year-end title from last November. He also lost the 2019 Canada final to Nadal.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is seeded third but has a bye like the rest of the top eight seeds. The Greek lost a Canada final to Nadal three years ago.

Russian Andrey Rublev takes fifth seed ahead of Canadian hero Denis Shapovalov, who has defeated Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro (both 2017) and Nick Kyrgios (2016) on Canadian courts.

Moving up the rankings and standing 12th is Norway’s sixth seed Casper Ruud, winner of three European clay titles in three weeks this summer.

Nadal crashed out of his ATP comeback event after a two-month layoff on Thursday, but said his injured foot is improved and that keeps him believing “important things are possible”.

The 35-year-old Spanish left-hander, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, lost to South Africa’s Lloyd Harris 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in a third-round match at the Citi Open.

Nadal aggravated a foot injury in a three-set victory Wednesday over American Jack Sock on the Washington hardcourts in his first match since losing a French Open semifinal to Djokovic.

“Best news, the foot was better,” Nadal said. “I was able to move a bit better, so that’s very important, especially for me personally, to keep enjoying the sport and keep having energy, believing that important things are possible.”

The most important thing on Nadal’s upcoming schedule is the US Open, which begins on August 30.

Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer all enter the US Open with a men’s record 20 career Slam titles, with Djokovic trying to complete the first men’s calendar-year Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.

“I need to keep improving,” Nadal said. “I had a lot of problems with my foot. I was not able to practice all the days that I really wanted, but I did as much as I could.

“And I tried hard here. I try very hard. But was not enough. I’m going to keep trying to practice the proper way and to give myself a chance to be better soon.”


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