Montreal - Fabio Fognini goes into Monday's start of the ATP Montreal Masters carrying a leg injury but determined to hit a personal best by the end of this season.
Winning the Monte Carlo title on clay in April vaulted the Italian towards the game's eilte - a position the 32-year-old finds extremely comfortable.
Fognini is seeded seventh in Canada and will play in the second round against the winner between local Brayden Schnur and a qualifier.
"Things have changed for me," the husband of retired former US Open winner Flavia Pennetta said on Sunday. "I"m happy to be in the Top eight here.
"This is a big event and I want to play well."
But the volatile talent, who can explode into anger on occasion, admits he's facing an uphill battle as the run-up to the US Open continues on North American cement.
Rafael Nadal takes the top seeding as he defends his trophy from last year, when he beat Greek young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
Weekend Kitzbuehel champion Dominic Thiem, Roland Garros finalist at the last two editions against Nadal, is seeded second and, like the Spaniard, will be playing the hardcourts for the first time since March.
Roger Federer will wait to start his hardcourt campaign next week in Cincinnati.
Fognini has a modest record here, never escaping the second round. But the Italian has a plan that looks beyond this week and onto the end of the long season.
"I'll play with my leg injury through the US Open," he said. "I will have a few days off before the Laver Cup (September 20-22 in Geneva).
"That gives me time to reflect on my situation. After Asia (October tournaments) I might have time to stop for surgery if necessary, but I don't know yet.
"There are only four or five events left after the US Open, so that gives time to think about next season."
Fognini said his Masters title in the principality has given his career a massive boost.
"My goals and dreams are changing, I want to try and end my career in the Top 10," he said. "It's tough because the young ones, guys ranked eight through 20, are all playing good tennis."
As for his hothead reputation, Fognini had a ready explanation: "If I do my job badly (on court) I lose my mind; if I play good, I'm happier than anyone."
He said it's too far away to consider next summer's Tokyo Olympics, calling them "a dream for every player along with Davis Cup and the Grand Slams."
He also refuses to consider his chances of reaching the ATP Finals in London in November.
"London would be a dream," he said. "I've been there in doubles but not in singles. I can only try my best even if I'm not at 100 percent.
"But London is not an obsession at the moment."