Rafael Nadal drops first set but rallies to defeat Rinky Hijikata at US Open
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Rafael Nadal fought his way out of trouble en route to a 7-6 (2), 6-3 first-round win over Rinky Hijikata on the way to an Olympic gold medal at the U.S. Open.
Nadal, the 2009 French Open champion, is the first man in more than two decades to win a major before turning 30. But it isn’t the last he’s achieved. The Spanish star is still playing and he is still on top of the world.
“Rafael is very good but it’s the only one,” Hijikata said. “He’s better than me now.”
Hijikata has won just twice in 19 attempts, losing in the opening round in both his career U.S. Open appearances coming into Saturday. He was the third seed in 2014, when he lost in the quarterfinals to eventual winner Kevin Anderson, who played the 2017 French Open on clay. Hijikata was making his second appearance since returning to the United States, losing at Wimbledon in July.
Nadal, who was born in Spain but moved to France at the age of 1, won seven Grand Slam titles in the years he was playing for a tour affiliated with the ATP. He has 11 major singles titles.
He lost his first set to Hijikata, who reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open last week, but then he recovered to win the second set, his first victory before the first Grand Slam tournament of his career.
But the third set went much differently. Nadal was broken twice before Hijikata hit the first serve of the third set to level the score. Hijikata broke to begin the set but once again was broken back on break point.
When Nadal won the following break point, Hijikata was able to serve out for the set.
“I was getting nervous playing in my first Grand Slam final, on my home court, and today I have to say I was nervous,” Nadal said. “R