US Open: Rafa Nadal produces stunning shot against Cilic
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Rafael Nadal suffered a shock defeat at the Citi Open as he crashed out in three sets to Lloyd Harris. The Spaniard entered the tournament for the first time in his career after a foot injury kept him out of Wimbledon and the Olympics.
Nadal dropped the opening set to the fearless 24-year-old but fought back and managed to force a decider, flying through the second set and taking it 6-1.
The pair were neck-and-neck throughout the final set, with the world number three unable to convert an early break point as the South African continued to back himself and go for his shots.
With no breaks of serve in the third set, the 20-time Grand Slam champion was still well and truly in the match when he served at 4-5, but Harris took his opportunity and pounced on Nadal, sending a lob over his head to break his serve and win the match.
The encounter was just the second match the Spaniard had played in almost two months, following an upset at Roland Garros when he crashed out in the semi-final.
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He subsequently pulled out of Wimbledon and the Olympics, later revealing that a left foot injury forced him out of both tournaments as he was unable to play for 20 days.
The former world number one opted to start his North American hard court campaign earlier than usual, entering the Citi Open, and made his debut in Washington in another third-set battle against American Jack Sock on Wednesday (August 4).
Nadal admitted that he was still feeling some pain in his foot after his second-round win over the world number 192 but downplayed his injury and said he would be ready to fight against Harris.
Although the 50th-ranked player came away the victor, Nadal seemed in good spirits as felt he played better than the day before.
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Despite losing the clash, the Spaniard said the match gave him the “best news” that his foot was better.
“The most positive thing is my foot was better today than yesterday, so that’s the best news possible,” he said.
“I played against a player that played well. For the moment, I think I played better than yesterday, but in the third when I had opportunities, the truth is his serve was huge and I played this last game really badly.”
Having stayed in the match until the very last game, Nadal added: “You can’t have mistakes in the key moments, and in the key moments I think in the last game, I was a little bit more nervous. My serve was not working the proper way. That’s it. Yes, well done for him. It’s a great victory for him. I wish him all the very best.”
The world number three has his sights set on Toronto next, where he now feels he has a chance at the National Bank Open as the five-time former champion.
He said: “I was able to move a bit better, so that is very important, especially for me personally, to keep enjoying the sport and keep having energy, believing that important things are possible.
“And then I need to keep improving. It’s true. I honestly didn’t have two easy months. I had a lot of problems with my foot. I was not able to practise all the days that I really wanted, but I did as much as I could and I tried hard here.
“For me [the important thing] is just [to] keep going. Accept the challenge that I need to keep working, and I’ll probably have another chance next week in Toronto. I’m going to keep trying my best.”
The 35-year-old is still sad to leaving Washington behind, having been complimentary of the city on his visit for the tournament.
Nadal took the opportunity to play tourist in the American capital, making a social media blunder when he wrongly tagged the White House in his sightseeing selfie.
The Citi Open crowd was also thoroughly on his side during his two matches, with chants of “Rafa” heard even during his match against American Sock.
“The most painful thing is [to] not be able to be on court again tomorrow in front of this amazing crowd,” Nadal said. “But I take a great experience [with] me. I was able to know a new city, for me a very important one. I enjoyed [it], and the support and the love of the people will stay [with] me.”
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