NEW YORK — Asked how his famously troublesome left knee was feeling on the eve of the U.S. Open, Rafael Nadal balked a bit while responding.
"I am … " the 12-time major winner began. "You know … " he resumed before smiling sheepishly and pausing again.
Eventually, Nadal gave a complicated answer: "I have to say that I am very well, because the results have been amazing since I came back. If I say something else, (it) will sound strange."
That's because when the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins today, none of the players possesses as much momentum, or is in as fine form, as the second-seeded Nadal.
Nadal has won his past 10 matches heading into the first round against American Ryan Harrison. He is 15-0 on hardcourts in 2013, winning titles at Montreal and Cincinnati this month. He has lost once in his past 33 matches, in Wimbledon's first round.
The biggest question about Nadal is how his knees will hold up. They have caused him recurring problems over the years, particularly the left one, which kept him out of action from late June 2012 until February 2013.
"I feel more comfortable now than six months ago, that's for sure," Nadal said. "But I still have pain some days."
Second thoughts? Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, who retired suddenly after a loss at Cincinnati on Aug. 14, has left the door open for a return. "You never know what's going to happen in any sport," said Bartoli, 28, at the U.S. Open as a TV analyst. "I'm happy with my decision. … But we'll see what the future is bringing."
When Bartoli called it quits at a postmatch news conference, she said her body could no longer take the pounding it had been enduring over her 14 years as a pro. But she hasn't asked to be taken out of the WTA rankings — she is No. 7 — and that could make for an easier comeback.
Ban intact: The U.S. Tennis Association rejected a request from the agent of Bernard Tomic, Australia's most promising young player, to give Tomic's father an Open credential despite a tourwide ban, spokesman Chris Widmaier said.
John Tomic, also his son's coach, was barred this year from gaining official access to tournaments by the ATP and the International Tennis Federation after being accused of head-butting Bernard's hitting partner. The French Open and Wimbledon didn't allow John entry into their tournaments even if he bought a ticket. The U.S. Open will follow that policy, Widmaier said.
Bernard, 20, has criticized the ban, saying the tour rushed to judgment in the case.