Despite a stress fracture in his rib, a long-term foot injury, and a torn abdominal muscle stopping him for brief periods, Rafael Nadal has enjoyed quite a lot of success this year.
At the age of 35, the Spaniard recorded his best-ever start to a season, winning the first 20 matches on the trot. This extraordinary run of victories included his second Australian Open title, which saw him become the first man to reach 21 Majors. The Mallorcan followed it up with a fourth Mexican Open title a month later.
After recovering from a stress fracture and finding a temporary solution to his foot problem, Nadal lifted a mind-boggling 14th French Open title. The 36-year-old won his first five matches at Wimbledon before a torn abdominal muscle forced him to withdraw right before his semifinal clash against Nick Kyrgios. He returned to action at the Cincinnati Open but lost to eventual winner Borna Coric in his opening match.
Now, the four-time US Open champion arrived early in New York for the 2022 US Open. The last time Nadal played at Flushing Meadows was in 2019, when he defeated Daniil Medvedev in the title clash.
A video has surfaced online in which the Spaniard can be seen entering the Arthur Ashe Stadium for practice. Like always, Rafael Nadal has a smile on his face, making his fans appreciate him yet again.
Fans took to social media in reaction to the video, with one stating his pride at being Nadal's supporter.
"Isn’t he the cutest? And of course the greatest ever sportsman in the history, across all sports. So f*cking proud to be a fan of this great human guy. He is our happiness," a fan tweeted.
"Good luck Rafa. It is yours at the end, but keep the hard work ,more ,and more. The fight is on, Rafa, nothing is easy, show them the spirit. (please no drive volley in important points, let it bounce and squash it)," another user wrote.
"I hope the tennis gods smile on Rafa during this competition - no injuries, good form, and as always his amazing fighting spirit! And a bit of luck never goes amiss! #VamosRafa," a tweet read.
Here are a few more fan reactions:
"In terms of practice, I need to start to be in a Grand Slam mode" - Rafael Nadal ahead of 2022 US Open
Rafael Nadal was supposed to return to action at the Canadian Masters earlier this month. However, he skipped the National Bank Open as the abdominal injury hadn't fully healed.
A week later, he arrived in Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Open. While fans were happy to see Nadal once again, eventual champion Borna Coric put up an extraordinary performance to beat him in three sets in the second round of the Masters 1000 event.
After the match, the 36-year-old admitted that his game needed improvement and vowed to be ready for the US Open.
"I need to improve, I need to practice, I need to return better. You lose. You move forward. I know the way. The main thing for me is stay healthy. I'm sad to not play well here, this tournament is enough important, but I have to move forward mentally," he said, speaking at a press conference.
"In terms of practice, I need to start to be in a Grand Slam mode, practicing the way that I need to practice to be competitive since the beginning there, and I hope I will be able to make that happen," he added,