US Open: Rafael Nadal rallies back after dropping the first set against Rinky Hijikata

·2-min read

Rafael Nadal survived an early scare against world number 198 Rinky Hijikata, steadying after dropping the first set to run away with a 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-3 victory.

The first set saw the 21-year-old Australian play out of his skin in the biggest match of his life, hitting 11 winners in the frame, before only being able to muster a combined 15 winners in the next three sets.

Nadal also left the door open, with one of his two double faults in the match leading to Hijikata's only break point opportunity from the first three sets, and he took full advantage before serving it out.

From that point on, it would be all Nadal as he found his footing, winning the points from 14 out of his 15 accurate first serves in the second set, before his second serve lifted in the third frame, taking 11 of those 13 opportunities.

A competitive fourth set meant Nadal had to save three break points, but only after he had already secured a break of his own and was cruising towards the finish line.

He needed five match points to finish off the determined Aussie, but he got the job done after three hours and 12 minutes of action, booking his place against Italy's Fabio Fognini in the second round.

Data Slam: Nadal's uncharacteristic start

The last time Rafael Nadal lost the opening set of a grand slam match against an opponent ranked outside of the top-100, it was five years ago at the 2017 US Open against Taro Daniel. It was a similar story on that day, as the Spaniard then rattled off the next three sets 6-3 6-2 6-2 without issue.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Nadal – 43/22

Hijikata – 27/33

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Nadal – 9/2

Hijikata – 7/4

BREAK POINTS WON

Nadal – 5/10

Hijikata – 1/4