Rafa: “I Can Still Be A Dangerous Player”

Spaniard looking to turn back the clock at the US Open

Rafael Nadal has played below his expectations in 2015, but the 14-time Grand Slam champion, No. 8 in the Emirates ATP Rankings heading into the US Open, is hopeful for another deep run at Flushing Meadows.

“I’m having the worst season in my past 11 years, but I think I can still be a dangerous player,” said Nadal, who is 42-14 with three titles in 2015. “The most important thing for me is to see myself playing at a high level again. I believe that I’m close to that.

“I’m feeling better today than I was a couple of months ago,” said the two-time US Open champion. “I’ve worked a lot these last couple of months. I know the process; it’s a challenge for me to find the level of play that I’ve been at a lot of times in my career.”

Standing in his way in the first round of the US Open is young gun Borna Coric. The 18 year old defeated Nadal in their lone meeting last fall in Basel, before the Spaniard underwent a season-ending appendectomy.

“It was a tough week for me and I had the surgery the week after,” said Nadal. “I don’t remember it very well, but I think I played very bad. If he played well then he deserved to win, but hopefully Monday will be a different story.

“[Coric] is a tough player,” added Nadal. “He’s a young player with a lot of energy, a complete player with a great serve and a very good backhand. He’s a big competitor. He’s one of the players that is the future of our sport, so it’s a tough one, but I’m playing well. I feel like I’m ready.”

As an 18 year old taking part in his second US Open in 2004, Nadal was humbled 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 by former No. 1 Andy Roddick. Rather than be discouraged by the setback, Nadal drew from the experience within his team to rise to new heights, something that Coric, coached by 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson, is likely to do.

“I always had the people around me,” reflected Nadal on his mindset as a teenager. “I listened to people who were trying to help me. I never was an arrogant guy. I never believed that I knew more than the people who were around me. They were older and they had more experience and they knew more about how things worked. I believed that one of the most important things I did in my career was listen to the people around me.”

The 29 year old has made the second week in New York seven times in 10 appearances and has never lost in the first round.