Q. What are your thoughts about being the No. 1 seed?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, no, being No. 1 seed, yeah, is good to be No. 1 of the world again, of course. I think it's a good achievement after three years having some troubles. So just happy for that.
Yes, no, just excited to start the US Open. Doesn't matter if you are seeded 1 or seeded 20. No, for me always is special to play here in a tournament that I had success, a tournament that I enjoyed a lot of good matches, and a tournament that normally I have a great connection with the crowd.
Q. The US Open experimented with a shot clock for serves and player coaching during the qualifiers. Do you have an opinion on either or both of those?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think in terms of coaching I think is normal. In terms of sports, if you have a coach in some ways is stupid to not use the coach in the most important moment. So I think is a good improvement.
About the clock on the court, well, I tell you one thing: Depends on what the fans want. You know, if the fans want short points and players playing without thinking, the matches, only going for the shots, maybe is good.
If you want to have matches like I played here with Novak, probably the three finals that I played here with Novak, probably that kind of match that the crowd is more involved because the points are so long, well, you cannot expect play 50 shots' rally and in 25 seconds be ready to play the next tennis point.
I think that's not possible for a great show. But if you don't want a great show, of course it's a great improvement.
Q. How do you comment the absence of Novak Djokovic from the tournament?
RAFAEL NADAL: It's his decision. There is no comments. Just sorry for him because he's injured, and probably having an injury probably he prefer to rest, to rest mentally, physically, and to recover from a lot of years doing amazing things.
Just everybody's free to do whatever is better, whatever works for itself, and just only thing that I wish to him is just is important to have fun, to be happy with the family, and then he will be back, for sure, in a good level.
Q. How surprising is it to you that this year the Grand Slams have been all about either Roger and you and we're sitting at the 2017 US Open and Roger and yourself are considered the favorites? Does that surprise you at all?
RAFAEL NADAL: In January, yes. Now, a little bit less. In terms of favorites or not favorites always is the same. Always Grand Slam we start talking about favorites and all always the same. The player who plays better is the player who has better chances.
Yeah, of course, is something that probably you and we don't expect to have that much success, but here we are. And we worked well, we worked with passion, and we played well.
So let's see how we finish season.
Q. You and Roger played each other all over the world but never here in New York at the US Open. That is a possibility, assuming you both get to the semifinals. How much would a match between you two be different here in New York than anywhere else?
RAFAEL NADAL: I cannot tell you, because I never played. (Laughter.)
Remain five matches, so ten matches, ten victories to have that match. A lot of points and games to play, so now is not the moment to think about that. For me, I think about Lajovic. That's my goal.
Q. Roger was just in here saying he would love to play you here, especially if there was a night match. I mean, would you love to play him if it got to that point?
RAFAEL NADAL: If I am in semifinals, not. I prefer to play against another one. Is obvious, no? I am not that way. Sounds very good, but the real thing, I prefer to play against another player, an easier one if it's possible (smiling).
I know you want to hear the other way, that I would love to play with him. No, of course I understand that gonna be great for our history. Is true that we played in all Grand Slam finals. We never played here and for sure this year we are not going to play in finals. Finals are more special than semifinals, in that case.
But anyway, meeting him here in semifinals with Roger, if that happens that will be something great and amazing, but as I say before, we made a lot.
Q. The defending champion Stan isn't here. Novak isn't here. Some other Top 10 players out because of injuries. Do you think that is merely a coincidence, or does it point to a larger problem in terms of injuries that maybe could be addressed by the tour?
RAFAEL NADAL: There is a couple of things that I'm sure we could do it better. In terms about the balls, of course is very bad decision to play Toronto, Cincinnati with one kind of ball and play here with a different kind of ball, because there is not even similar ball, you know. That's very bad for the wrist, for the elbow, for the shoulder. That's bad, seriously.
That's something that there is contracts and I understand, but there is some ways that you can fix it, no?
So that's something that will be a great improvement for the players, no, that we don't have drastic change balls. You know, I know in some parts of the year is impossible. You know, when you come from clay to grass, of course, it's different. But when you play here at the US Open, serious, if we are playing here with the Wilson US Open, why we don't play the whole, this part of the season with the same ball. That's something that will help in terms of health.
And the rest of the things, don't forget that we are not 21 anymore. That's something that can happen. Stan is 32, you know, I think. I am 31 and a half almost. Novak is 30. Andy is 30. Yeah, we are not that young anymore, so it's normal that we had some things, and I tell you because I had much more things than all my competitors, no?
Sounds new for them, for Novak, and Andy that now missed a couple of tournaments, and for Stan the same, no?
But I tell you one thing: I missed much more than them, and sometimes in your career, in sport, is normal that you have some injuries. That's the coincidence that it happen at the same time.
Q. Just generally, do you think this is just a snapshot in time?
RAFAEL NADAL: Of what?
Q. So many missing, of the well-known players, or do you feel this is just a start of a gradual shift with younger guys coming up and maybe a changing of the guard?
RAFAEL NADAL: Raonic is not that old, no? Nishikori is not that old. No, no, it's not about that. That is only two players, but is obvious that I don't tell you is the start, but is obvious that the players, with all their age, don't forget that Sampras probably at my age was not playing tennis, Borg was not playing tennis. A lot of great players were not playing tennis at our age.
Is normal that we are still playing, we try our best, but it's normal that we have more troubles during this.
Q. It's been a while since you first earned the No. 1 ranking many years ago. If it did, how different did it feel this time getting back to the top compared to the first?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, the first for me was more important than this one, of course. Yeah, I care. I have been -- in 2008, for sure, was more important the ranking for me than today, because I believe -- well, I think I did a lot of great things, I was winning a lot of tournaments, I'm playing very solid, and I was not able to be in that position, so I think in some ways in that moment I deserved to be No. 1 at that point. It happened and it was great.
I enjoyed that, and then of course 2013, yeah, was very special after a lot of injuries and, yeah, was an amazing season. This year, let's see. For the moment I am very happy the way that I played during the whole season. I enjoyed almost every event that I played.
I'm here at the US Open, and doesn't matter if I No. 1 or not. Today, only thing that matters is try to work well and try to be ready for the first match and try to play a good US Open. That's my goal.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Photos: EPA; Sipa USA