'Rafael Nadal will punish that and start dictating points', says former Top 10

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'Rafael Nadal will punish that and start dictating points', says former Top 10

Rafael Nadal is preparing to make his return to the field in Washington DC, in what will be his absolute debut in the prestigious ATP 500 on stage in the US capital. The Spanish champion's last official match dates back to the Roland Garros semi-final, when he was defeated in four sets by Novak Djokovic.

A foot injury forced the Majorcan to take a two-month break, thus giving up both Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics. The former world number 1 will compete for a full season on hard courts, in order to reach 100% for the start of the US Open.

In addition to wanting to forfeit his 21st Slam, Rafa would also like to prevent Djokovic from making the 'Calendar Grand Slam' (never again since Rod Laver). The first obstacle in his path to Washington will be Jack Sock, who has shown signs of recovery in recent months.

The 28-year-old American had ended up in oblivion, also due to a series of injuries that had removed him from the circuit. The winner of the Masters 1000 in Paris-Bercy in 2017 took advantage of Nishioka's retirement in the first round caused by a calf problem.

Jack Sock on facing Rafael Nadal

“I looked up and saw my first serve percentage after the first set and that’s just not going to work against Rafael Nadal,” said the former world number eight. “I was able to get away with it against Yoshi [Nishioka] but Rafa will punish that and start dictating points so first serve percentage for sure.

Depth on my forehand (is important) too. My forehand feels good, it feels heavy. Kind of like it always is. But I definitely need to get the ball a bit deeper than I did tonight to have a chance" - Jack Sock added. The Citi Open 2021 is not just a warm-up tournament for Rafael Nadal ahead of the US Open 2021.

It can also bring a drastic change in his ATP Ranking if he fails to succeed there. Rafa needs to win five matches in order to lift his maiden Citi Open title this year. Similarly, to remain on the No.3 spot in the ATP Rankings, he also needs to win all five matches; he needs to win the tournament.

The Spaniard has had quite a topsy-turvy season so far. Even though he has won two titles this season, including a Masters 1000 tournament, he hasn’t been able to get his hands on a Grand Slam this year. Rafa once again showed great temperament on clay as he bagged his 12th Barcelona Open title and then achieved his ‘La Decima’ at the Italian Open 2021. However, he failed to defend his French Open title as he lost to World No.1 Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.