‘Right here to play my greatest day-after-day,’ Rafael Nadal begins long-awaited US Open run with four-set victory

NEW YORK — After dropping the primary set, Rafael Nadal rallied to defeat Rinky Hijikata within the No. 2 seed’s opening match on the US Open on Tuesday evening.

Sluggish out of the gate, Nadal stormed again, a lot to the delight of the prime-time crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. His 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 victory ended with Nadal outlasting Hijikata in a grueling recreation that featured 5 match factors.

Nadal didn’t present any critical lingering results from the torn stomach muscle that compelled the 22-time Grand Slam champion to tug out of Wimbledon earlier than he was purported to play within the semifinals. That doesn’t go down on his file as a loss, as a result of he didn’t take the court docket for the match.

“I went by means of this robust second however then I believe I performed higher, no?” Nadal requested reporters in his postmatch press convention. “In fact, was not excellent, however yeah, pleased.”

After the postmatch handshake Tuesday, a visibly relieved and enthused Nadal set free some emotion with a number of fist pumps and waves to the group after bettering to 16-0 within the first spherical on the US Open.

“Very pleased, it has been an extended wait,” Nadal mentioned, after profitable his first match on this event since 2019. “I felt that possibly I would not be again right here once more … so, thanks everybody.”

Nadal took benefit of the New York stage after the match, staying on the court docket lengthy after it to hit tennis balls to followers, many who have been nonetheless on their ft lengthy after the postmatch interview. He’ll meet Fabio Fognini on Thursday.

“It is concerning the course of, to construct off the optimistic issues,” Nadal mentioned. “Right now, a three-hour match towards a tricky opponent. I wish to keep optimistic. I am right here to play my greatest day-after-day.”

Earlier within the day, Carlos Alcaraz moved into the second spherical when his opponent was compelled to cease due to harm within the third set.

Alcaraz, the No. 3 seed, led Sebastian Baez 7-5, 7-5, 2-0 when the Argentine participant motioned that he could not proceed due to leg ache or cramps.

Alcaraz’s US Open ended final yr in an identical method. He reached the quarterfinals at 18, the youngest man to get that far in New York within the skilled period, earlier than stopping within the second set of his loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime due to an higher proper leg harm.

Russian Andrey Rublev, the No. 9 seed who has twice reached the quarterfinals on the US Open, reached the second spherical by outlasting Laslo Djere 7-6 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4 in a match that took 3 hours, 41 minutes.

Amongst different seeds advancing have been: 2014 champion Marin Cilic, No. 7 Cameron Norrie, No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 11 Jannik Sinner, No. 14 Diego Schwartzman, No. 17 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 19 Denis Shapovalov, No. 20 Daniel Evans and No. 28 Holger Rune, who meets John Isner subsequent.

No. 14 seed Diego Schwartzman additionally moved on after American opponent Jack Sock retired with an harm whereas main 6-3, 7-5, 0-6, 0-1.

The Related Press contributed to this report.