Tennis News • Survive and move on: Nadal in US Open third round but battles Fognini

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal had a second consecutive poor match at the US Open on Thursday night. But considering he didn’t pick up any wins between the third and fourth Grand Slams of the season, Nadal won’t complain about how he’s progressing in New York. As they say, a win is a win.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion struggled to find the fork throughout his second-round battle with Fabio Fognini, but he did enough to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 , 6-1 after two hours and 43 minutes. It was a contest that left Nadal bloodied and likely made his fans look equally beleaguered.

“I’m happy after a terrible start,” said the Spaniard, who not only lost the first set but was also down three times in the second. I still don’t understand how I started so badly because the feeling before the game was good.

A racket to his own nose was one of the best contacts Nadal made all night. At the end of the fourth set, after finally turning the game around in his favor, the 36-year-old rushed for a backhand and his racquet bounced off the court in his face. Blood was drawn – almost Mikhail Youzhny Miami 2008 style – and Nadal was quickly fixed with a bandage before continuing without any problems.

He mercifully ended the proceedings soon after.

“We don’t need to create a story,” assured Nadal. “(It was) just a strong blow. At first I thought I (broke) my nose because it was a shock; was very painful. I lost (a) feeling in my head a bit – it’s about being a bit out of this world I don’t know, it looks like it’s not [broken]. I’m not sure yet. I do not know. I think it’s getting bigger and bigger.

“(Somehow I deserved [it for playing] so badly for a while.

Photo credit: Garrett Ellwood/USTA/US Open

Luckily for Nadal, he started playing at least a bit better late in the second set for the rest of the game. This coincided with a significant decline in Fognini’s form. In the end, it was a bit of a role reversal from 2015 – when the Italian was the one to burst in and beat Nadal after two sets in the third round.

“Things like that happen sometimes, so (I) have to accept and move on,” noted the No. 2 seed, who also lost the opening set to Rinky Hijikata in the first round. “That’s what I did. (I’m) lucky that Fabio made some mistakes and I was able to start putting balls in and finish the game obviously playing better, much better.

“The most important thing in this game is when you play badly or when the opponent plays too well, don’t [dwell too much] to score…. It’s about making sure things happen at the right time. Today I didn’t do that for a while. Then I think I started to compete. This is what I was looking for for a set and a half – (to) start competing. I was not in competition, right? (It was) something unusual on my part.

“But the positive thing (is) that I stayed there. I was positive. Even though the disaster was huge, I wasn’t too frustrated.

Ricky contributes to and also runs its own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.

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