Rafael Nadal admits he's been left at a loss by the latest injury concern that's hampered his preparations for the year's final grand slam.
Nadal says he hasn't yet fully recovered from a foot issue that kept him out of Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics but he hopes a US Open tune-up event in Toronto will help him regain confidence in his on-court movement.
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Nadal's first event since his epic semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the French Open ended in a shock third-round exit in Washington on Thursday.
The 20-time grand slam champion will be desperate to record-breaking major title to his name at the US Open in a victory that would put him one ahead of great rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Speaking before his next campaign gets underway at the Masters 1000 event in Toronto, Nadal admitted his left foot was still holding him back.
"It's been a couple of tough months for me in terms of physical issues," the World No.3 told reporters at the event in Toronto, where first-round action starts on Monday.
"I know I am not at my peak yet, but I think I have been practising better than what I played in Washington so I am excited to keep going here and be able to play a little bit better than there."
Nadal said a recurring foot issue he has been dealing with since 2005 returned at Roland Garros, where he fell to eventual champion Djokovic before deciding to sit out two of the year's biggest events.
"Some moments the situation is worse and some moments the situation is better," said Nadal.
"After Paris my foot was not recovering. I was in a lot of pain for a couple of weeks so I couldn't train. I stayed around 20 days without touching a racquet, trying to recover."
Nadal, who as the second seed in Toronto has a first-round bye, said that while he would like to taste victory before heading to the US Open, which begins at the end of the month, his main focus is to regain confidence in his foot.
"I need to find again the positive feelings with my foot," said the 20-times grand slam champion.
"I really need to have a couple of weeks with less pain to have the confidence again on my movements, knowing that I will be able to go out and compete for a long time ... that's something that I am looking for in this tournament."
Rafa Nadal chasing sixth Toronto title
The 20-time Grand Slam champion has won five Canadian titles, including the 2018 and 2019 editions. The event was not held in 2020 due to Covid-19.
Olympic quarter-finalist Daniil Medvedev heads a depleted field at an event which is missing two of the "Big 3" players.
With World No.1 Novak Djokovic giving the week a miss after his frustrating medal-less performance at Tokyo and Roger Federer still out with his lingering knee problems, Medvedev and Nadal head the seedings.
Other absentees include Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev, injured US Open winner Dominic Thiem and Italian Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini.
Young Italian Lorenzo Musetti was arbitrarily dismissed from qualifying rounds by officials after violating the strict player Covid-19 lockdown protocols.
Medvedev's way will not be eased by what is forecast as summer heat up to 30 Celsius in Canada. The Russian made his dissatisfaction known at the Olympics, where he had to compete in torrid conditions which he said had threatened his health.
"Tokyo had some of the toughest conditions I've ever played in," he said on Sunday.
"The heat and the humidity was something quite special. The body is not used to it.
"That's why I was suffering. But (after training this week in Florida heat) I feel very good coming, especially physically."
The 25-year-old owns three ATP 1000-level trophies as well as the London year-end title from last November. He also lost the 2019 Canada final to Nadal.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is seeded third but has a bye like the rest of the top eight seeds. The Greek lost a Canada final to Nadal three years ago.
Russian Andrey Rublev takes fifth seed ahead of Canadian hero Denis Shapovalov, who has defeated Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro (both 2017) and Nick Kyrgios (2016) on Canadian courts.
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