September 2, 2022
Rafael Nadal showed even the greatest sportsmen of all time aren’t always kings of cool.
He was in serious trouble twice against Italian rival Fabio Fognini – once of his own making.
First he dropped the opening set against the flamboyant Italian. At that stage his assault on Grand Slam number 23 looked in serious doubt.
Then Nadal was floored and bloodied by his own tennis racquet. He required treatment as an anxious crowd looked on.
Fortunately, Rafa is made of strong stuff and came through all these traumas to emerge triumphant 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.
Rafael Nadal will doubtless show similar resilience at Wimbledon 2023 and remind us why he is the greatest of all time.
But he didn’t look such a superstar at the start of this rollercoaster ride when he was broken twice in the first set.
Perhaps sensing he could ill afford a marathon endurance match in the first week of a Grand Slam fortnight, the Spaniard knuckled down to show his superiority.
And Nadal looked to have Fognini beaten at 3-0 in the fourth when he almost beat himself.
A follow-through from one of his sweeping shots ricocheted off the hard court and bounced up to strike Rafa on the nose.
He was stunned and needed treatment before recovering to close out the match.
Asked later whether it had ever happened to him before, Nadal said: ‘With a golf club yes – but not with a tennis racquet!
‘I felt just a little bit dizzy at the beginning and it was a bit painful,’ he admitted.
Meanwhile wins for Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans ensured that four Brits are through to the last 32 of the US Open for the first time since the start of the open era in 1968.
Wimbledon 2023 promises to be very special with so many British men able to hit such sparkling form simultaneously.
Norrie beat Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) to maintain an outside chance of landing the US Open title itself. He faces 19-year-old Dane Holger Rune next.
Dan Evans had a bigger battle against Aussie star James Duckworth before coming through 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. He will take on former champion Marin Cilic in what promises to be a bruising contest.
Norrie and Evans join Jack Draper and Andy Murray in the third round.
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