It was not a recital or even a high mass, but it was a nocturne as the American public likes. A great consumer of emotions, undisciplined and noisy as usual, he got carried away by this unequal duel at the start, but which ended in a good fight, between Rafael Nadal, 36, legend of the game, quadruple champion in Flushing Meadows and Rinky Hijikata, 21, 198th in the world, enthusiastic Australian and student in North Carolina just over a year ago!
The Spaniard was expected, watched. With a match for a defeat, at the tournament opener in Cincinnati against Borna Coric a fortnight agofor only benchmark since his retirement shortly before the semi-final at Wimbledon, the Majorcan, who has still not lost a Grand Slam match on the field this season (20 out of 20 now), did not really know where to go. put on before returning to the big American stage on Tuesday evening, three years after leaving it, in great triumph in 2019.
On arrival, his victory in four sets over Rinky Hijikata (4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3) obviously calls for confirmation of a higher rank. This success in battle carries solid promises and paths of progress. And that’s surely what Nadal wanted, he the follower of small steps in the process of reconstruction so often experienced with success in the past.
A forehand in working order
On Tuesday, the Spaniard initially lacked opportunism and was too timid in the game in the first set, jostled by an Aussie launched full ball and without fear in the most delicious match of his career! It took that, that sharp sting, the loss of the first run, to wake up the beast. The sequel would be much more committed, much more aggressive. Even if, with a first serve pointing at 183 km / h on average over the match, Rafael Nadal obviously did not want to add more. Abdominal muscle hit at Wimbledonhe took great care throughout the rehabilitation phase to spare the area on this precise technical gesture and he undoubtedly remained cautious in this area for his entry into the tournament.
On the other hand, in the forehand crossing, the world No. 3 did not spare himself. Moreover, the sequence in two strokes, service/uncrossed forehand, and the forehand struck straight ahead while advancing to the exchange were undoubtedly the two master assets of the Spaniard, author of 43 winning strokes including 22 in forehand against Hijikata on Tuesday night.
Nadal also had to accept the fight and he surely needed it. Like the last game of the match, which lasted more than twelve minutes and which Nadal ended up concluding on his fifth match point, with a lightning passing forehand along the line. It was certainly only a first round, the road is still long, but Rafael Nadal is again in the place. It was up to the Italian Fabio Fognini, now 60th in the world, to see it in the second round.