New York: The US Open holds a special place in Rafael Nadal's heart, but the defending champion knows emotion alone won't carry him to a second straight title at Flushing Meadows.
Spain's Nadal, whose victory on the New York hardcourts last year gave him a career Grand Slam, arrives at the final major tournament of the year beset by injury worries and faced with the overwhelming dominance displayed by world number one and top seed Novak Djokovic.
None of it, Nadal said, changes his approach.
"When you come back after the victory of last year the emotions are higher," Nadal said. "Of course, it was the last Grand Slam for me to complete all four, was one of the biggest moments of my career. That makes the comeback a little more special.
"But if we talk about the goal, it's the same: Play well, try to arrive at the final rounds."
Nadal has had his struggles this season. He injured his left foot in a match at Wimbledon, and after falling to Djokovic in the final took some time off.
Upon returning, he lost his opener at the Montreal Masters, and exited in the quarter-finals at the Cincinnati Masters, where he was troubled by blisters on his left foot.
He also played in Cincinnati with two fingers of his right hand heavily and awkwardly bandaged, after burning them on a piping hot plate at a restaurant.
He says the damaged fingers, which affected his grip on his two-handed backhand, are "much better," although they still require some light bandaging.
"The skin is still very thin, but it's fine," Nadal said.
It's not injuries, however, that appear to pose the biggest obstacle to a repeat but Djokovic, who owns a 5-0 record over Nadal in 2011.
All five of those victories came in tournament finals, the most recent Djokovic's Wimbledon triumph that vaulted him past Nadal and into the number one spot.
Nadal is willing to offer Djokovic all credit for his amazing season -- which has seen the Serb build a 57-2 record and claim nine titles, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon and five of the ATP's prestigious Masters crowns.
But as the tournament approached, Nadal said he couldn't afford to start focusing on Djokovic just yet.
"Well, I am here at the start of the tournament and you start to talk about a match against Djokovic," Nadal said. "I have to win a lot to play Djokovic - and him, too. He's not in the final yet.
"I am focused on trying to play well and trying to have very good practice this week. That's what I am doing.
"After, we will see, no?"