Rafael Nadal drops first set but rallies to defeat Rinky Hijikata at US Open
The day after a tough five-setter against Marin Cilic to keep his title hopes alive in Cincinnati, Rafael Nadal served for a 5-3 lead in the first set of his US Open semifinal at Cincinnati on Friday.
He hit a forehand winner over a chair on his first serve for a 5-1 lead in the first set and never looked back.
Nadal led 6-3 in the second set and didn’t relinquish the lead for the entire match – he never had to as he closed out the first-set victory 7-5 to set up a fourth-round meeting with the world No. 26 Hijikata.
“I have a problem with not playing my best tennis because my body can just feel it so much better than in my best moments,” Nadal said.
“I had a lot of confidence in my game before the matches but in Cincinnati this year, after five matches, my game felt stronger. I had a little bit of space to play my game and I enjoyed it, which I hadn’t done before.”
It is the first time since he began his comeback from retirement in May that Nadal didn’t drop serve in the first three matches of a US Open semifinal.
In the opener against Marin Cilic in Cincinnati, Nadal served 12 aces in a first-set tie-breaker, which was his only service break of the match.
In the next four sets against Cilic of Croatia it was Nadal’s serve that made him earn points, with his opponents hitting only two aces in each of those sets as he posted a 3-0 lead.
“It was great to start out with the confidence, which is not something easy to come back from, but in the end I had a very good day,” Nadal said.
“My serve was very solid. I didn’t have any errors, so that made a big difference.
“As it happened, it was the first time I would be making mistakes of that magnitude. For me, it was a big problem