Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
After a terrible early round defeat at Montreal two weeks ago, Rafael Nadal came into Cincinnati hoping that he could right the ship—and he has to a degree. There was a bit more verve about him, there was some purpose and he seemed to recognize and actively try to correct the faults in his game.
Going into the US Open, Nadal will have his sights set firmly on defending his title. It is a big task, but the need is even greater.
Winning the US Open will ensure that Nadal ends 2011 with more than one slam and it would keep him on track to reaching Roger Federer's record Grand Slam tally of 16. Not winning the US Open—although it wouldn't be the end of the world—would hark back to the pains of his 2009 season.
Simply put, whatever it is that drives Nadal is in desperate need of some fuel and the US Open is that fuel.
If Nadal doesn't win the US Open this year and never equals/surpasses Roger Federer's record, the blame will lie squarely on his 2009 and 2011 seasons—two years during his prime—where he won just one Grand Slam title.