Rafael Nadal said Saturday that he is ready to try and take the next step in his career by winning the lone major title which has eluded him, the US Open, dpa reported.
The top seed from Spain has stalled at the final four stages at the last two editions at Flushing Meadows, whose conditions, atmosphere and sheer chaos tend make it the uncontrollable younger brother to the civilised ambience of the other three majors.
World number one Nadal is seeded ahead of five-times champion Roger Federer, with play starting at the last of the four majors on Monday.
"I'm playing better and better in this tournament," said reigning French Open and Wimbledon king Nadal. "The centre court is difficult to play. There is more wind here than at the other Grand Slams.
"Sometime it seems you're not even moving the ball. But when you are in the semi-finals for two years, why not (win the title)?"
The 24-year-old starts his campaign against Russian
Teimuraz Gabashvili, the number 98 whom he has beaten twice, including last year at Roland Garros.
Nadal is working hard not to stress out at Flushing Meadows. His hardcourt summer has been modest at best, with a Toronto semi-final and a quarter-final last week in Cincinnati at his lone warm-up events.
The top seed insists he's not overly concerned about his New York record. "I hope I have the chance to win here, but without obsession. I'm happy with what all the tournaments I've won.
"It is all more than I dreamed of five or six years ago. I'm trying to improve my tennis all the time."
Nadal took treatment on one of his problem knees after winning Wimbledon, then travelled to South Africa to see Spain win the football World Cup over the Netherlands. He lost to eventual champion Andy Murray in Toronto and went out to Marcos Baghdatis in Cincinnati.
Nadal feels his fitness going into this edition of the Open is his best in some time. "I've arrived better than other years. Physically I'm fine."