Four-time US Open champion Rafael Nadal went past Australia’s Rinky Hijikata in the first round of the US Open 2022 at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York on Tuesday. The Spaniard defeated the Australian by 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.
It wasn’t a stroll in the park for Nadal as he took some time to find his mojo. Hijikata impressed with his serve and volley game in the opening set as attacked the net. The 21-year-old from Sydney broke Nadal’s serve in the seventh game of the first set and took it by 6-4 in the end.
However, Nadal was quick to bounce back in the second set as he broke Hijikata’s serve for the first time in the second game. The veteran then once again broke the youngster’s serve to take the second set convincingly.
Nadal then continued his domination in the remaining two sets but he had to save a couple of break points in the fourth set. The Spaniard was able to grab the fifth match point with a ripping forehand down the line.
“It’s been a long wait. For some time I thought I may not be able to be back, so I am super happy. Night sessions are the best,” Nadal said. “I just have to be humble and accept the process, day after day in practices and matches and stay positive.”
The 22-time Grand Slam champion added that he didn’t play his best in the opening set and admitted he got a bit nervous when Hijikata broke his serve.
“I think I started not that bad the first couple of games, but then I had some opportunities that I was not able to make it,” Nadal said. “I think I didn’t play a good game with my serve. Then he had the break. Then I was a little bit nervous. First match here in New York after three years, night session, it’s always exciting. Yeah, I went through this tough moment.”
Meanwhile, Nadal recently made a return to the tour in the Cincinnati Masters after recovering from an abdominal injury but he was knocked out in the second round by eventual champion Borna Coric. The left-hander added it is never easy to get going after an injury break.
“It’s always the same story: things are not perfect when you are not competing very often, when you come back from injury. You need to be humble enough to go through this process and accept that you need to fight and you need to accept that you going to suffer. That’s what I did today,” Nadal said. “I am able to play again in two days, and I hope to play better.”
Nadal will face Fabio Fognini in the second round of the New York Major.