Rafael Nadal drops first set but rallies to defeat Rinky Hijikata at US Open
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Rafael Nadal survived a scare during one of the greatest tennis matches of his career on Sunday, losing the first set to Riky Hijikata of Japan but rallying to win four points in the decider.
Nadal dropped the opening match of the three-day U.S. Open to Hijikata at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens but continued to fight and took the second set. He took the last three games to level at 3-3 in the second set.
Nadal, the three-time U.S. Open champion, was leading Hijikata 4-3 in the third set when he let a forehand go long from Hijikata’s backhand corner in the eighth game of the deciding set. Hijikata won the point to leave Nadal a set up with his biggest break point since he defeated Roger Federer in the 2010 U.S. Open final.
Nadal then hit a forehand long for another break point at 4-3, but it was Hijikata who took the lead again to level the match. He saved a match point down 3-2 to take the lead for good. Then Nadal served out the match and his historic 15th career Grand Slam victory.
“I don’t think his serve was great,” Hijikata said after the match. “He just played great tennis. I just played a bit more aggressive than I normally do. I wasn’t aggressive with my shots, I wasn’t aggressive on the forehand, just the overall attack. So I need to work on my defense and be more aggressive with my shots.”
A year after losing to Federer, Nadal has now beaten four top-10 players at the U.S. Open, the latest in Hijikata. The Japanese, who is ranked 14th on the ATP list, had lost just twice on hard courts this year and was making his first appearance at the U.S. Open since his retirement last year. Nadal’s victory moved him into the