Spanish stalwart and winner of 22 singles majors, Rafael Nadal began his quest for a 23 Grand Slam title by defeating Australian Rinky Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 at Flushing Meadows to set up a second-round showdown with Italy’s Fabio Fognini on Wednesday (IST).
The four-time US Open champion, competing here for the first time since he clinched the title in 2019, has won 19 of his past 20 matches at the season’s final Grand Slam.
Rafael Nadal Dropped His Opening Set At The US Open But Recovered
Rafael Nadal has expressed that it has been a long wait for him as for some time he thought he won’t be able to be back. He also wishes to remain humble and positive.
The tennis star’s next opponent will be Fabio Fognini. The Italian had rallied from two sets down against the 22-time Slam champion in New York in 2015, though the Spaniard leads the head-to-head 13-4. Hijikata seemed fearless inside the famed Arthur Ashe Stadium, playing very intently to keep Rafael Nadal from dominating the set.
Nadal also said that he started the game well at first but could not take up the opportunities he got. His first match after three years in New York also excited him but he regrets not playing a good game.
In an interview, Rafael Nadal says that with irregular participation in competitions things can be imperfect especially when someone has suffered an injury but being humble and accepting the suffering is what makes it better. He also hopes to play better in the next match which is in two days.
Since Wimbledon, this was only Rafael Nadal’s second match where he pulled out due to an abdominal year just before the semi-final. At the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, the Spanish tennis star lost his opening match against Borna Coric. Fabio Fognini, Rafael Nadal’s next opponent was also challenged. The Italian tennis player won against Aslan Karatsev 1-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 after more than two hundred minutes.
In the Pepperstone ATP rankings, Rafael Nadal is positioned at No.1. To prevent the Spaniard from capturing the top spot, Russian Daniil Medvedev, Spanish player Carlos Alcaraz, and Norway’s Casper Ruud must all reach at least the final.