Rafael Nadal’s first US Open match since 2019 ended with a four-set victory over a player making his Grand Slam debut. (More Tennis News)
Nadal improved to 20-0 in matches at major tournaments this season by beating Australian wild-card entry Rinky Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 across more than three hours in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night.
Nadal did not show any serious lingering effects from the torn abdominal muscle that forced the 22-time Grand Slam champion to pull out of Wimbledon before he was supposed to play in the semifinals.
That does not go down on his record as a loss, because he did not take the court for the match. Nadal has won the US Open four times, including three years ago. He then did not return in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic or last year because of an injured left foot.
The 21-year-old Hijikata was a wild-card entry who played college tennis at North Carolina. In women’s singles, Emma Raducanu’s defense of her surprising 2021 US Open championship has ended with a first-round loss to Alize Cornet.
Their match in Louis Armstrong Stadium ended with a 6-3, 6-3 score. Raducanu is only the third woman to lose her opening match in New York a year after winning the title. The others were 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.
Raducanu dealt with blisters on her racket-holding right hand and took a medical timeout after the first set for treatment from a trainer. She also was simply outplayed by Cornet, a 32-year-old from France who ended Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon.
Meanwhile, Venus Williams has been eliminated in the first round of her return to the US Open. Williams lost 6-1, 7-6 (5) to Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where younger sister Serena won a night earlier.
Venus Williams, 42, was given a wild card into the tournament she first played in 1997, where she was runner-up. She missed the event that she won in 2000 and 2001 last year with an injury. Williams fell to 0-4 in singles matches this year. She has won at least one match every year since 1994.
Earlier, Carlos Alcaraz moved into the men’s singles second round of the US Open when his opponent was forced to stop because of injury in the third set. The No. 3 seed led Sebastian Baez 7-5, 7-5, 2-0 when the Argentine player motioned, he couldn’t continue because of leg pain or cramps.
Alcaraz’s US Open ended last year in a similar manner. He reached the quarterfinals at 18, the youngest man to get that far in New York in the professional era, before stopping in the second set of his loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime because of an upper right leg injury.
Top-ranked Iga Swiatek powered into the second round of the US Open, beating Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 6-0. No. 8-seeded American Jessica Pegula also raced through her opening match, like Swiatek needing just more than an hour before beating Viktorija Golubic 6-2, 6-2.
Swiatek is just 5-4 since her 37-winning streak earlier this year, but the two-time French Open champion got sharper as the match went on Tuesday while supported by a number of Polish fans wearing red inside Louis Armstrong Stadium. She is trying to become the first player since Serena Williams in 2014 to win seven titles in a year.