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Rafael Nadal: Less pressure at this U.S. Open

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal Photo Credit: Rafael Nadal/Bacardi

Defending U.S. Open champion Rafael Nadal enters the year’s final Grand Slam with less momentum than last year, but also less pressure to repeat as champion.

“After winning last year, the pressure is less,” Nadal said in midtown Tuesday. “I now have all four Grand Slams.”

In the time since he beat Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open final last September — completing his major trophy collection — Nadal has dropped to the No. 2 ranking while struggling to stem the rise of Djokovic, the new No. 1 and the Open’s top seed.

Nadal appeared Tuesday as part of Bacardi’s “Champions Drink Responsibly” event at Bar Basque, and he was asked about his own drinking habits. (In his memoir, “Rafa,” which was published yesterday, the 25-year-old Spaniard writes, “I barely touch alcohol.”)

“I am the first one, when I have a chance, to go out with friends,” Nadal told reporters during a news conference. “Alcohol is part of that all the time. The thing is ... it’s not necessary to take a crazy amount of alcohol. ... I have [had] fun 1,000 times without drinking too much.”

Worst foot forward for Murray

Andy Murray used a practice session in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday to work out an issue with a new pair of red Adidas tennis shoes.

“I’m stubbing my big toe,” the fourth-ranked Murray told a member of his team during the practice, gesturing toward his right foot. “The new shoes are quite hard.”

Murray wore blue sneakers during his run to the Cincinnati title last week. And as long as his apparent footwear issues are worked out, the 24-year-old Scot is a strong candidate to return to the U.S. Open final for the first time since 2008.

Even after Murray had his right foot retaped Tuesday, he served poorly in stretches against his No. 13-ranked French hitting partner and appeared to be in pain when he planted the foot on ground strokes.

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