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Tennis News • Survive and advance: Nadal into US Open third round but struggles against Fognini

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal played a second consecutive poor match at the U.S. Open on Thursday night. But considering he did not earn a single win in between the third and fourth Grand Slams of the season, Nadal won’t complain about the way in which he is advancing in New York. As they say, a win is a win.

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

“I’m happy after a terrible start,” said the Spaniard, who not only lost the first set but also trailed by a break three different times in the second. I don’t understand yet how I started that bad because the feeling before the match was good.”

A racket to his own nose was some of the best contact Nadal made all night. Late in the fourth set, after he had finally turned the match around in his favor, the 36-year-old lunged for a backhand and his racket bounced off the court back into his face. Blood was drawn–almost Mikhail Youzhny Miami 2008 style–and Nadal was quickly patched up with a bandaid before continuing without any trouble.

He brought a merciful end to the proceedings shortly thereafter.

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

“(In) some way I deserved [it for playing] that bad for a while.”

Photo credit: Garrett Ellwood/USTA/US Open

Fortunately for Nadal, he started to play at least somewhat better late in the second set through the remainder of the match. That coincided with a significant dip in Fognini’s form. In the end, it was a bit of a role reversal from 2015–when the Italian was the one who stormed back and beat Nadal from two sets down in the third round.

‘These kind of things sometimes happen, so (I) need to accept and keep going,” noted the No. 2 seed, who also dropped the opening set to Rinky Hijikata in round one. “That’s what I did. (I’m) lucky that Fabio made some mistakes and I was able to start putting some balls in and finish the match playing obviously better, much better.

“The most important thing in this game is when you are playing bad or when the opponent is playing too good, don’t [dwell too much] on the score…. It’s about making the things happen in the right moments. Today I was not doing that for a while. Then I think I started to compete. That’s what I was looking for for a set and a half–(to) start to compete. I was not competing, no? (It was) something unusual of me.

“But the positive thing (is) I stayed there. I was positive. Even if the disaster was huge, I was not too frustrated.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.