x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Tennis round-up: Nadal ready for US Open, Bartoli considers comeback

Spaniard says he is playing more aggressively on court as he begins challenge of winning second title at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

Rafael Nadal has won back-to-back Masters titles in Toronto and Cincinnati. Eric Thayer / Reuters
Rafael Nadal has won back-to-back Masters titles in Toronto and Cincinnati. Eric Thayer / Reuters

A year after watching last year's final on television, Rafael Nadal is back in New York, revitalised and ready to make up for lost time at the US Open.

A knee injury forced Nadal to miss the last grand slam of 2012, spoiling his chances of reaching the final for a third straight year.

With Nadal absent, Britain's Andy Murray went on to win his maiden grand slam title, beating Novak Djokovic in a five-set thriller.

"When I was in that period of time outside of the tour I didn't follow the tour every week, because at the end I was focused on my recovery," Nadal told reporters at Flushing Meadows ahead of Monday's opening play.

"But a few matches you cannot miss, and for sure I watched all the final. It was a great final."

This time Nadal is back, fully fit and at the top of his game, having won back-to-back Masters events at Montreal and Cincinnati.

Nadal also missed this year's Australian Open but has been in great form since making his comeback, winning a record eighth French Open in June.

Because of his knee problems, Nadal has had to adjust his game for the North American hardcourt season, playing more aggressively to reduce the pounding on his legs, and he seems to have found the perfect balance.

"I think you can play aggressive when you are playing well. That's the first and important thing," the left-hander said.

"It's true I'm trying to take the ball a little bit early and that I worked on my game to be a little bit more aggressive.

"But at the same time, it's true that in the past when I was playing well on this surface I had good success too, so it's not something crazy that changed today."

Bartoli considers comeback

Marion Bartoli, the Wimbledon champion, offered the first hint that her shock retirement may not be quite as final as she first indicated when she hinted on Sunday she could make a comeback.

The 28 year old stunned the tennis world earlier this month when she announced she was quitting just months after breaking through to win her first grand slam.

The Frenchwoman, speaking in New York, left open the possibility that she could possibly make a return next year.

"You never know what is going to happen," she told reporters.

"It's pretty hard to say I will never come back."

When Bartoli made her shock announcement earlier this month, past and present players immediately urged her to have a re-think, suggesting she take a break before making any rash decision she may later regret.

On Sunday, Bartoli revealed she had asked the Women's Tennis Association not to take her off the rankings list, but said it was more out of curiosity than anything else.

"I just wanted to see where my ranking would end up at this year without playing any more. We'll see where it takes me," she said.

Bartoli achieved her lifetime dream in July when she defied the odds to win Wimbledon after injuries had ruined the first six months of her season.

She said her body needed a break and she wanted to try new things in life but would remain involved in tennis in some capacity. She will attend the US Open, starting on Monday, as a television commentator.

"It's hard for someone from outside to understand, starting from six years old and when you have to hit, probably, two million balls before being a pro tennis player. I'm the only one who can make the call," she said.

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