With painful foot, Nadal tops Sock at Washington in return
WASHINGTON (AP) - There were certainly moments when Rafael Nadal played much like someone competing for the first time in nearly two months, dealing with a left foot injury that he later admitted was painful.
The shaky portion. The successive net forehands that brought a broken key. The inability to take control of an opponent ranked 192nd.
And then, en route to a 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (1) win over Jack Sock at the Citi Open for more than three hours on Wednesday night, there were moments when Nadal looked every bit like 20th century -fold appeared Grand Slam champion, who scored a full house draw at 7,500 just by making his hard court debut.
"The game wasn't easy," said Nadal. "I've started to suffer a little too much."
The climax was a back-to-the-net, between the legs a bit of magic in the first set that made Nadal hit the air and got his fans to stand up and yell. Court coverage of that attempt, and when he hit a winner on the run with a drop shot of Sock in the tiebreaker, at least hid any obvious problems attributed to the recently revealed foot injury that Nadal recently revealed to Wimbledon and the Olympics Games in Tokyo and stayed three weeks without lifting a racket.
The pair of left forehand winners, which he broke off to earn a set point, which he then converted to a return winner to win the opener, were among the good ones. Likewise, its impeccable shape in the tiebreaker. The first serve of 47 in the first set and the inability to collect a single break chance in the second set were among the bad ones.
Such mistakes "open the door to a player like him," said Nadal of Sock, against whom he is now 6-0.
"To be honest, I just have to have a little less pain in my foot," said Nadal. "That's the truth."
The 35-year-old Spaniard played up and down a lot, which Nadal himself suggested. That makes sense, since he last played an important point in a loss to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the French Open in June, an event Nadal has won 13 times.
Afterwards, Nadal said his body had to rest and recover from the strenuous stretch of clay court. Meanwhile, Djokovic has drawn level with Nadal and Roger Federer in 20 major championships each, so the Big Three share the men's record that goes to the US Open, where the game begins on August 30th.
If getting ready to play before heading to Flushing Meadows is of the utmost importance, Nadal had the chance to play against Sock, an American who is a former top 10 individual and owner of three grand. is to shake off some rust Slam title in the men's doubles.
After losing 4-3 in the second set and 1-0 in the third set, a deficit that would reach 3-1, Nadal returned to his best self.
He held with no problem, then broke to 3-all by whipping a forehand to close a 16-shot exchange before sprinting to take a drop shot and extend a point he would win - and mark it with a shout of "Vamos!" and fist pumps - when Sock calculated his answer.
Suddenly Nadal stopped again with the help of a volley shot over the shoulder and was now leading 4: 3. In the end, he was just a lot better.
"You need games like this to be fitter after months without competition," said Nadal.
On Thursday, he will face 14th placed Lloyd Harris, a South African who advanced when his US opponent Tennys Sandgren stopped playing because of rib pain.
Previously, number 6 seeded Dan Evans lost his first match since testing positive for COVID-19 last month and missed the Olympics. Evans was beaten 7-6 (1), 6-0 by Brandon Nakashima of the USA.
Other seeds go on Wednesday: No. 3 Alex de Minaur, No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 9 Alexander Bublik, No. 10 Taylor Fritz and No. 13 Benoit Paire.
Nadal almost joined them on the way out. Pushed to the edge, he pulled through.
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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