Rafael Nadal is set to return to the tour this week at the Citi Open in Washington. The ATP 500 event will mark the beginning of a long run of tournaments for Nadal, which includes the Rogers Cup and the US Open.
Ahead of his return to competitive action, the World No. 3 trained with American youngster Sebastian Korda on Sunday. And Nadal was left impressed with the 21-year-old's game, especially how complete and well-rounded it is.
"[His game has a] good physical look, good serve, good shots from the baseline," Nadal told the ATP Tour. "I think he's a great guy, [a] complete player. He has a lot of things to do in the next years in our sport."
Rafael Nadal and Sebastian Korda have faced each other once before - in the fourth round of Roland Garros 2020. Nadal defeated Korda 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in that match before going on to lift the trophy.
At the time, Korda had spoken about how the Spaniard was an "unbelievable player". And Nadal returned the compliment following their training session in Washington, claiming that the young American could mature into one of the best players on tour.
"I think I always believed since I saw him play that he is going to have the chance to be one of the best players of the world," Nadal said. "Let's see. It’s always the same. I think he has all the things that he needs to definitely be a top guy. Of course, things are not easy and you need to keep improving. But I definitely believe, if you ask me, that he [is] going to be a great one."
Why the upcoming American summer hardcourt season is crucial for Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal hasn't had the best of seasons so far by his lofty standards, having lost to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the French Open a couple of months ago. The Spaniard then withdrew from Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics to recharge for the American hardcourt season.
Nadal is defending 3,000 ranking points over the next month and a half, given that he triumphed at the Rogers Cup and the US Open in 2019. The 35-year-old is not far from qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals, but a successful run in the United States is crucial if he wants to get close to the No. 1 ranking again.
At Flushing Meadows, Rafael Nadal will also be going head-to-head with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the race to become the sole Slam record holder. The trio are tied at the top having won 20 Majors each.
Nadal, who is a four-time US Open champion, would hope to be seeded at least third in New York and also avoid facing Djokovic before the final.