At a press conference after his debut match in New York, a reporter asked Rafael Nadal if he feels he is receiving special treatment from the referees. Rafa, with a slightly surprised expression, was quick to respond by denying everything.
Kim Clijsters and Alex Corretja lined up on the side of the 22-time Slam champion. Kim said: "That wasn't a nice question." Corretja defended Nadal: "I would like to be Rafael Nadal even for just a minute. Although he is 36 years old, he has the same desire as a kid who has just entered the Tour.
As for that reporter's question, it was clear that Rafa himself was surprised. He didn't expect to hear such a thing. I don't like it when reporters come to you and say: Someone claims that ... Be honest all the way. The chair judges have the clock and it is their job to enforce the rules." Having played very little last year, Rafa has a good chance of finishing the year at the top of the ATP rankings.
Nadal struggled harder than expected to get the better of Rinky Hijikata in the first round of the US Open 2022. The former world number 1, still not at his best after his abdominal injury, had to come back a set behind against an opponent that he had nothing to lose.
Even against Fabio Fognini Rafa struggled for a set and a half. The Spaniard is on the hunt for his fifth title in New York, a tournament where he has always shown great performances. The absence of Novak Djokovic could be a further stimulus, as well as a great chance to stretch further in the all-time rankings of the Majors.
After a 2021 full of difficulties, this season has given enormous satisfaction to the 36-year-old from Manacor. Despite the persistent pain in his foot, Rafa won the Australian Open and Roland Garros, climbing to 22 Grand Slams.
The Iberian also tried to win Wimbledon, but an abdominal tear prevented him from playing the semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.