Rafael Nadal beat Jack Sock 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(1) in a Citi Open match on Thursday, nearly two months after he last played a competitive tennis game. Nadal, it must be noted, looked rusty and lacking in match fitness which is to be expected. His first serve wasn’t consistent, neither was his forehand return at times. To make things worse, he was bothered by a left foot injury. However, he did enough to outdo his opponent, ranked 192 in the latest standings. In the end, that is all that will matter for the twenty-time Grand Slam winner as the build to the US Open begins.
“The match wasn’t easy. I started to suffer a little bit too much,” Nadal said after the match ended.
He also said such matches were the need of the hour given his lack of match sharpness. He did look a bit up and down, but in the end had enough quality to win.
“I just need to have a little bit less pain in the foot, honestly. That’s the truth. You need matches like this to be fitter after months without competing,” he added.
The highlight of the match was his between the legs shot that also opened the door for a winner. Really, it has to be seen to be believed.
Excuse me, @RafaelNadal? 😲
— ATP Tour (@atptour) August 4, 2021
On Thursday, he will meet 14th-seeded Lloyd Harris, a South African who advanced when his opponent, Tennys Sandgren of the U.S., stopped playing because of rib pain.
Earlier, No. 6 seed Dan Evans lost his first match since testing positive for COVID-19 last month and missing the Olympics. Evans was beaten 7-6 (1), 6-0 by Brandon Nakashima of the U.S.
There were also other seeds exiting Wednesday. No. 3 Alex de Minaur, No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 9 Alexander Bublik, No. 10 Taylor Fritz and No. 13 Benoit Paire all exited the tournament.
The US Open is set to commence on August 30 (Monday) and end on September 12. Nadal will be one of the favourites going into the Grand Slam if he can find some form and fitness.