US Open: Rafael Nadal 'feels great' but not ready to contend for title

Nadal is seeded to meet Djokovic, the favourite and world No 1, in the quarter-finals

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The last time Rafael Nadal played at the US Open he won the title, but it would be a major shock if the Spaniard repeated the feat over the next fortnight. Nadal, who missed last year’s tournament with a wrist problem, has had a difficult time over the last 15 months and is down to  No 8 in the world. He is seeded to meet Novak Djokovic, the favourite and world No 1, in the quarter-finals.

Although Nadal has claimed three titles this year, he has not won a Masters Series or Grand Slam tournament since the 2014 French Open. Nevertheless, the former world No 1 is pleased with his fitness and still believes in his ability to compete at the very top.

“I feel great physically, and that’s important for me because that’s giving me the confidence in my body that’s always been very important [for] the intensity of my movements,” he said in New York this week. “If I’m healthy and I have the chance to keep working the way I’m working now, I believe that I can keep competing well for the next couple of years and keep having chances in the big events.”

However, Nadal’s draw is strewn with potential banana skins. In the first round he plays 18-year-old Croat Borna Coric, who beat him in Basel at the end of 2014.

In the third round he could face Italy’s Fabio Fognini, to whom he has already lost twice this year, and in the fourth he might meet the Canadian Milos Raonic, who beat him in Indian Wells in March, or fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who knocked him out of last week’s Cincinnati Masters.

“I will be arrogant if I say I feel ready for the title now after not having a great season,” Nadal said.

“I don’t want to say that. I say I am working hard every day. I know I am playing better and I am feeling better mentally than a few months ago.”