Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal raves about D.C. ahead of Citi Open debut

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Rafael Nadal raves about D.C. ahead of Citi Open debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Rafael Nadal is soaking in all that D.C. has to offer while competing at the Citi Open for the first time in his career.

After a practice session on Sunday, the 35-year-old Spaniard spoke highly of his experience in the nation's capital, so far.

"I love to be here in Washington because is not only a new event for me, is a new city," he told reporters on Sunday. "I am able to visit one of the most important cities in the world. And honestly, it's a very beautiful city."

Nadal may be new to D.C. and to the tournament — which for much of its 52 years in existence has served as a tune-up to the U.S. Open — but the city is more than familiar with the global icon. 

He won't make his debut on the hardcourt until Wednesday night, but at practices and even interviews he's already drawn large crowds eager to get a glimpse of the 20-time Grand Slam champion any way they can.

Still, Nadal said he's had time — and space — to just be a tourist the past few days.

"What I saw, so beautiful," Nadal said. "A very green city, lower buildings than most of the American big cities. I am enjoying the city, I'm enjoying the people."

This is the first time the event has attracted a member of 'The Big Three' (Roger Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic) since 1999 when an 18-year-old Roger Federer made an appearance at what was then called the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

That is in part because most of the world's top players opt out of the 500-level event which typically comes off the back of Wimbledon—and in this case, the Tokyo Olympics as well.

For Nadal, who sat out Wimbledon and the Olympics due to a nagging foot injury, this will be his first competition since losing to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the French Open in June.

He will use this opportunity to get back on the court a week early and get a jump on his preparation as he pursues a fifth U.S. Open title.

Nadal sat out the U.S. Open last year amid the pandemic. When the Grand Slam tournament begins later this month in New York City, he'll look to break a tie between himself, Federer and Djokovic by capturing a record 21st major trophy.

While he focuses on getting match ready for the first round of the Citi Open, he said he'll also try to explore more of what D.C. has to offer.

"I hope to have a chance to visit little bit more the city during the next couple of days," Nadal said.