Nadal hits hard courts ahead of debut at Washington tourney

Washington, Jul 30 (EFE).- Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal got in an initial practice session here Friday morning ahead of his maiden appearance at the Citi Open, a US Open tune-up event.

In a just under one-minute video that tournament organizers posted to social media, the 20-time Grand Slam men’s singles champion could be seen putting in some work on the hard courts at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Washington DC’s Rock Creek Park.

Spectators at the Citi Open will be able to watch the world No. 3 train in several practice sessions open to the public throughout the weekend, when the tournament’s qualifying rounds are scheduled to be played.

Nadal’s debut in this competition will be on Wednesday, Aug. 4, when he takes on the winner of a first-round match pitting American Jack Sock against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

The Spanish great will be competing for the first time since a four-set defeat at the hands of Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the French Open on June 11, when the 13-time champion suffered just the third loss of his illustrious career at Roland Garros.

Shortly afterward, the 35-year-old announced that he had chosen to withdraw from both Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, saying in a statement that he had made the decision after “listening to his body” following “the always demanding clay court season.”

“The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition,” Nadal tweeted.

The Spaniard has typically started his preparations for the final Grand Slam event of the season at the Canadian Open.

But he changed his plans this year, opting to arrive in North America earlier than usual and compete in Washington DC.

His next major objective will be the Aug. 30-Sept. 12 US Open, where Nadal will be seeking an Open Era record-tying fifth men’s singles title at Flushing Meadows and an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title.

Nadal and fellow all-time greats Djokovic and Roger Federer, both of whom will be competing in New York, currently share the men’s Slam record.

The US Open has unique significance this year because Djokovic will be seeking an extremely rare calendar-year Grand Slam (titles at the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in the same season) at Flushing Meadows.

The Serbian had set his sights on a so-called Golden Slam, but that dream was shattered on Friday when he lost 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 to German world No. 5 Alexander Zverev in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics.

In a press release on July 8, the Citi Open hailed Nadal’s upcoming “historic Washington DC debut,” noting that Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi have played that event in the past but that none of those great champions had 20 Grand Slam singles titles to his name.

“We are thrilled to welcome Rafael Nadal, who is not just one of the greatest tennis players of all-time, but also a global sporting icon and inspiring role model to our Washington community this summer,” Citi Open Chairman and CEO of MDE Tennis Mark Ein was quoted as saying in the press release.

The press release noted that Nadal will be seeking his 89th tournament title in Washington against a solid field that includes 2021 Wimbledon semifinalists Denis Shapovalov and Hubert Hurkacz, 2021 Wimbledon quarterfinalists Felix Auger-Aliassime and Karen Khachanov, as well as other talented players including Nick Kyrgios, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and Alex de Minaur. EFE


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