Defending U.S. Open champion and current No. 2-seeded player Rafael Nadal is feeling the heat to take first in this year’s Open — just not as intensely as he was at this time last year.

 

“The pressure is always there,” he told the crowd at Bar Basque last week, where he was on hand to promote Bacardi’s Champions Drink Responsibly campaign. “Last year was more pressure for me than this year, because last year I felt I had a real chance of winning. Last year I felt ready to win.”

 

With his win one year ago, the “King of Clay” became the seventh player in history achieve a Grand Slam, and the youngest player in the open era to do so. This year, he’ll take on current No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic in an effort to defend his title, and he won’t let a recent mishap at a Japanese restaurant (Nadal burned two fingers touching a hot plate) — or foot injuries that have threatened to curb his career — get in the way.

 

“With the injury of my left foot, for moments it was tough — we didn’t know if I would have the chance to be playing,” Nadal said.

 

And while in town for the Open, Nadal plans to take advantage of all that the city has to offer.

“I have been here in the past, before I came for the U.S. Open, with my family. I know the city very well. When I have the chance I love to walk around, have dinner in good places from here. Probably later I’m gonna go to the theater to watch a musical. I think today [it’s] ‘Mamma Mia.’”



Follow Meredith Engel on Twitter @MeredithatMetro.