Spanish stalwart and winner of 22 singles majors, Rafael Nadal began his quest for a 23 Grand Slam title defeating Australian Rinky Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 at Flushing Meadows to set up a second-round showdown with Italy’s Fabio Fognini on Wednesday (IST).
The four-time US Open champion, competing here for the first time since he clinched the title in 2019, has won 19 of his past 20 matches at the season’s final Grand Slam.
Nadal’s next opponent will be Fognini. The Italian had rallied from two sets down against the 22-time Slam champion in New York in 2015, though the Spaniard leads the head-to-head 13-4.
Fognini battled past Aslan Karatsev of Russia 1-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 after three hours and 34 minutes.
Hijikata showed no stage fright inside the famed Arthur Ashe Stadium, playing aggressively to keep Nadal from dominating the action.
This was Nadal’s second match since Wimbledon, where he pulled out before the semifinal due to an abdominal injury. The Spaniard had lost his opening match at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati against eventual champion Borna Coric.
Nadal is in a great position to leave New York as the No. 1 player in the ATP rankings. Russian Daniil Medvedev, Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz and Norway’s Casper Ruud must all reach at least the final to have a chance of preventing Nadal from capturing the top spot.
Defending champion Raducanu, two-time winner Osaka exit in first round
Defending US Open champions Emma Raducanu and two-time winner at Flushing Meadows Naomi Osaka were eliminated from the season-ending Grand slam, losing their respective first-round matches to Alize Cornet and Danielle Collins on Wednesday (IST).
In her record-breaking 63rd consecutive major appearance, Alize Cornet of France hogged the limelight, ending Raducanu’s title defence inside the Louis Armstrong Stadium 3-6, 3-6. Raducanu, who had soared into the top-10 of the WTA rankings in July, will soon drop to outside the top-75 following her first-round exit.
American 19th seed Danielle Collins, who had not played since July, was back to her best in her 7-6(5), 6-3 first-round win against two-time champion Osaka, displaying breath-taking baseline strokes.
The Australian Open finalist, who earned her maiden win in four attempts against Osaka, will face Spain’s Cristina Bucsa in the next round.
Raducanu had her serve broken three times in the first set, the last time due to a double fault. It was 3-all in the second when Cornet hit a superb half-volley winner on the way to her sixth break of Raducanu’s serve. A seventh break was just enough to get Cornet a spot in the second round.
The 32-year-old Cornet, ranked No.37, has five top-20 wins this season, including the upset of No.1 Iga Swiatek at Wimbledon and a win against Romania’s Simona Halep in Melbourne.
Cornet is appearing in her 63rd consecutive Grand Slam main draw, the longest run in the Open Era. She will play Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in the second round.
Meanwhile, Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins said after defeating Osaka that she had learnt a lot about her opponent’s game after losing in the last three encounters against the Japanese.