With nine titles this season and trophies at the two Masters 1000 August warm-up events, Rafael Nadal has become the de facto favourite on the men’s side as the US Open begins on Monday.

But looking too far ahead is not a Nadal speciality.

“We will see after here, this tournament will make the difference,” said the 2010 New York champion. “It’s true that I’m having a great season. I played amazing, because I still have three very important (ranking) zeros in my computer: Australian Open, Wimbledon, and Miami.

“That’s a lot of zeros to be number one, but I’m trying. My goal is be healthy, have the chance to be competitive, and finish the year with good feeling and having the chances to play well. That’s happening.”

And as far as Djokovic is concerned, his toughest rival for the 15-day event — it will now officially end on a Monday after five years of weather interruptions, which have produced the same result — is Nadal.

“First of all, Nadal is definitely back, and he’s playing maybe the best tennis that he ever has played on hard court really,” Djokovic said.

“He’s stepped in a little bit more. He knows that now he has to be a bit more aggressive than he usually is because of, I guess, his knees and everything and because hard court is not clay. It’s not his favourite surface; it’s faster.

“I’m sure he worked on that, and you could see that all the work he put in is getting results. He’s definitely so far the best player this year. There is no question about it.”

Pressure is surely growing on Murray, as he prepares to defend a major for the first time in his career.

Roger Federer is seeded seventh after a poor season by his world-class standards.

The 32-year-old says he’s free of his post-Wimbledon back pain and is concentrating on regaining his Grand Slam touch.

But as far as standing seventh, he’s not really worried.

“When I come here I don’t just look at trying to make quarters.

I’m clearly here trying to win the tournament, but it starts at the very beginning so that’s really where the focus is right now.

“Number seven I don’t think is a huge drop from number four, but people are going to say what they like. The important thing is that I concentrate on my game and, that the passion is there, that I work the right way, that I’m prepared, and then that I feel like I can win a tournament. ”

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