CINCINNATI • The ever-positive Rafael Nadal remains a total tennis optimist as he begins his final preparation for the US Open, with the Spanish world No. 8 insisting that he is working constantly to turn this season into a success.
The 14-time Grand Slam winner is competing this week at the Cincinnati Open, which he won in 2013, the last time that he played.
After an injury absence which basically took him out of the second half of the 2014 season, the 29-year-old has been fighting all year to make improvements to a ranking which dropped to 10th after he failed to win a 10th French Open title in June.
"The last part of the season is important. I want to finish feeling better than when I started," said the eighth seed. "This is an important week for me."
He arrived in the Midwest after losing a Montreal quarter-final to Japan's Kei Nishikori, who withdrew from the American tournament with a hip muscle problem which should be overcome for the US Open starting in a fortnight.
"I played OK in Montreal, but every week is a different test - a different story. I'm working more than ever to change the dynamic," said Nadal.
With a two-hour rain interruption slowing a full day's schedule, former top-10 American Mardy Fish still found time to continue his farewell tour with a 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Serb Viktor Troicki.
Fish, who has had a heart-scare problem and anxiety attacks, will end his career at the US Open in two weeks' time, after dealing with his worries since 2012.
"I was a little surprised at my level. I hadn't practised a ton or (practised) particularly well for a little while. I was struggling with my serve," said Fish, a 2010 finalist against six-time champion Roger Federer.
Fish moved into a second-round challenge with third seed and world No. 2 Andy Murray, who comes to Cincinnati after his Montreal title at the weekend over Novak Djokovic.
"He's pretty fantastic so far, he's won a ton of matches," Fish said of the Scot. "He's won more matches than anyone this year, so he'll be tough."