Rafael Nadal made a powerful return after being a set down in his electric first round match at the U.S. Open against wildcard Rinky Hijikata on Tuesday night.
The 22-time Grand Slam winner took the last three sets to win 4–6, 6–2, 6–3, 6–3 in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The former North Carolina player remained close throughout the match after taking the first set from the Spaniard. The Australian saved four match points in the final game, which also went into seven deuces before Nadal took the final point to advance to the second round.
If Hijikata would have upset Nadal, he would’ve handed the all-time men’s Grand Slam title leader his first U.S. Open first round loss. Nadal is 16–0 in his career at the tournament’s first round.
After not competing in the 2020 and ‘21 U.S. Open tournaments, Nadal made his return this year to the New York Grand Slam. He won in 2019, meaning he hasn’t lost at the tournament since ’18.
On top of continuing his dominance at the U.S. Open, Nadal extends his winning streak (20–0) at Grand Slam tournaments this year. He remains undefeated in all major matches after winning the Australian Open and French Open. He advanced to the semifinals at Wimbledon, but withdrew from the match beforehand due to an abdominal tear.
The 36-year-old made his tennis return two weeks ago at the Western & Southern Open. Now, he advances at the U.S. Open to try to capture his 23rd Grand Slam title.
Nadal will face Italian Fabio Fognini on Thursday. Fognini beat Nadal at the 2015 U.S. Open in the Round of 32.