It may not be an obvious statistic, but Rafael Nadal has lost just one US Open match since his semi-final exit to Juan Martin del Potro in 2009.
His record in New York since then? An impressive 21-1. The Spaniard won the title in 2010 and 2013, lost the final to Novak Djokovic in 2011, and missed the event in 2012 and 2014 through injury.
As he takes on Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the second round today, he admits Flushing Meadows provides an atmosphere upon which he thrives.
“It’s a tournament I like a lot. Atmosphere here is just amazing. The crowd, I feel the love of the crowd and the energy of them, so I enjoy a lot playing in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, especially night sessions,” Nadal said after extinguishing the teenage threat of Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 on opening night.
Slowly inching closer to his major-winning form, Nadal was explosive in his first two sets against the 33rd-ranked Coric, who had beaten him in their only previous clash, in Basel last season when the Spaniard was suffering from appendicitis.
Nadal landed 72 per cent of his first serves in, won an impressive 88 per cent of his first serve points and owned the net winning 16 out of 17 points up front.
“I think I played great. The first two sets I played a very high level of tennis. Then I get a little bit tired. I had some problems. I was sweating a lot. I didn’t feel strong enough after that,” explained Nadal.
“I did not feel physically perfect then. But then in the fourth I recovered little bit. I played more aggressively. It was an important victory for me.”
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The No8 seed elaborated on his physical problems in the third set, saying he got dehydrated from sweating too much in humid conditions and said he isn’t worried about it for his next match.
Searching for his best on-court performances all season, the former world No1 says he’s been practicing at a “very high level” leading up to the Open.
“That makes me calm. That gives me confidence. I know if I’m able to keep having that feeling, I will have the success again,” added the 29-year-old. Also in action today is Novak Djokovic, who takes on Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer in the second round.
The top seed dropped just three games in his opener against Brazilian Joao Souza on Monday. The Serb skipped past Souza 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in 71 minutes and was given a boost when No4 seed Kei Nishikori, a possible semi-final opponent for him, was knocked out in the first round.
“I couldn’t ask for a better opening of this year’s US Open. Hopefully I can continue in that rhythm,” said Djokovic.
“It adds to your confidence. But it’s also making a statement for everybody that is out there watching. We are all watching each other’s matches. It’s important you’re sending a good message, and I’ve done so.”
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