by JAMES HENRY
CINCINNATI – Fresh from his title run at Montreal’s Rogers Cup just days ago, Rafael Nadal continued his winning ways at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
He defeated Benjamin Becker 6-2, 6-2 and said he was pleased with his performance.
“I played well,” he said. “I should be very happy the way that I played since the beginning. Just for a few games the serve was down a little bit. I served with too much second serves just a few games. For the rest, I think I played a great game.”
Nadal said he needs to adapt his game to the different conditions in Cincinnati.
“The speed of the court is not exactly the same. It’s a little bit slower here than in Montreal,” he said. “And when you have these kind of tournaments back to back, it’s not easy.”
“But the idea is still the same,” he added. “I played really aggressive in Montreal with changing directions and playing inside the court, and the feeling was great. I think I played great matches.
“And the idea is keep playing the same way to give me confidence and give me good success. So we’re happy with the way I’m playing since I came back, and I’ll try to keep doing this way.”
Nadal will play Grigor Dimitrov in the third round. That match is scheduled to start not before 7 p.m. Thursday on Center Court.
“He’s a great player. He’s a young player. He’s really destined to be in the top positions in not a very long period of time,” the World No. 3 said.
“He’s doing well, and I had a tough match against him in Monte Carlo this year. He had already tough matches against Murray, Djokovic.
“He’s a player that has great potential. Tomorrow will be a tough match for me, so I have to keep playing this way and play very well. When I have chances, I’m going to try.”
Nadal conceded it is difficult emotionally and physically when playing so many competitive matches in such a short time period. He played doubles with Pablo Andújar on Tuesday and singles on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Montreal – and was on the practice court on Monday in Cincinnati.
He cited his third-round match against Jerzy Janowicz as particularly draining in Canada. He won 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-4.
“I didn’t practice a lot on Monday, just 15 minutes. Yesterday, I tried to play a little bit more, but the attitude and the rhythm is not the same,” he said. “Today, I had a long warm-up, very intense, intensive. So I felt ready.”
Nadal, however, stressed that playing multiple matches on hard courts is not a test for his knees.
“My knees is healed, is working well for the moment,” he said. “On the court, I felt more trouble was on grass because the movements are less stable, and I need to play lower than in the rest of the surfaces.
“In the rest of the surfaces, I will not say I am 100-percent perfect, but the way that my knee works today is not limiting my game in no way. So I’m very happy for that.
“I have pain sometimes, yes. That’s why I say I’m not 100-percent perfect. But I’m 100-percent perfect to compete at 100 percent today.”
Photo by James Henry for OnTheGoTennis