US Open: Rafa Nadal produces stunning shot against Cilic
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Rafael Nadal took to the court in Washington overnight for his first match in almost two months. He narrowly avoided defeat to world number 192 Jack Sock, managing to win in a final set tiebreak, but it was one shot in particular that really impressed fans. The Spaniard hit an impressive tweener in the fourth game of the match, following it up with the perfect winner at the net.
World number three Nadal was competing in his first contest since a shock loss to long-time rival Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros semi-finals.
After a left foot injury kept him out of Wimbledon and the Olympics, he decided to start his North American hard court season early and enter the Citi Open for the first time in his career.
The Spaniard received a bye to the second round where he faced Sock, whose first round opponent retired with injury while being a set up.
In a hard-fought win, the 35-year-old recovered from a break down in the third set to secure a 6-2 4-6 7-6(1) victory, but appeared hampered by his foot injury at times.
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While Nadal managed to mount an impressive comeback, it was one particular shot early on in the match that really impressed fans.
In the fourth game of the match, the 20-time Grand Slam champion chased down a lob and managed to return it with a tweener, much to the delight of the capacity crowd.
If that wasn’t enough, he managed to immediately run to a drop shot and hit a clean winner past his American opponent, winning the spectacular rally.
He celebrated in typical Nadal fashion with a fist pump and a cry of “vamos”, jeering the crowd on.
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It’s the first time the former world number one has played in front of a full crowd since the coronavirus pandemic started, having skipped the likes of Wimbledon which had 100% capacity in the later rounds.
Making his Washington debut in the prime time evening session in front of 7,500 fans, he relished the opportunity and managed to get the American fans on his side despite playing against one of their own.
Speaking on court after the match, Nadal said: “It was a tough match and I managed to find a way at the end. Sorry for Jack.
“The energy here in Washington has been unforgettable after such a tough year and a half. Getting to play in front of these great people is just fantastic. I enjoyed it, I suffered a little bit but it’s normal. I hope to be ready for tomorrow.”
The 88-time title winner played down his injury in a press conference after the match but admitted he felt some pain, saying: “My fitness is fine, more or less, I only wish my foot to hurt a bit less. You need matches like this to be fitter after a month without competing.”
He faces 14th seed Lloyd Harris in the third round tonight, with another evening session billing in front of the packed crowd.
Touching on playing in a full stadium once again, Nadal said: “Well it felt fantastic. For these kind of things we still play.
“Of course for us playing without a crowd is the least important thing that we are facing in the last year and a half [with] a lot of people dying, a lot of people suffering.
“Still this fire is still there… At least we’re able to play with some crowd so that makes a difference for us and that gives us some positive vibes to keep going.”
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