US Open: Rafael Nadal makes winning start



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US Open: Rafael Nadal makes winning start

Rafael Nadal earned his 311th Major victory in the US Open opening round. Rafa made a slow start against a player with a wild card, Rinky Hijikata, before beating him 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. Nadal sealed the deal in three hours and eight minutes to join Daniil Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz in the second round.

Rafa hit nine aces and faced four break points. He lost his serve once in the opener and defended three break chances in set number three to keep the pressure on the other side. World no. 198 made an excellent start, but he could not keep that level in sets two, three and four.

Nadal broke him five times from ten opportunities to emerge at the top and move into the second round for the 16th time from as many trips to New York. The Spaniard hit 43 winners and 22 unforced errors, and he should be pleased with his performance in only the second match after Wimbledon.

Rafael Nadal is through to the second round in New York.

The opening set was tight, offering only one break chance in the seventh game. Rinky broke Rafa at 30 with a winner at the net to forge a 4-3 advantage and gain a boost.

The Australian served well in all five service games and secured the opener with a booming serve at 5-4 after 44 minutes. Nadal started all over in the second set and produced four comfortable holds. Hijikata could not follow that pace and lost serve twice.

The Spaniard earned his first break of serve in game two after the rival's loose forehand and held at love in the next one for 3-0. Hijikata served to stay in the set at 5-2 and suffered the second break to hand the set to Nadal, who was back at the level terms after an hour and 19 minutes.

There was nothing wrong with Rafa's serve in the third set, and he waited for a chance on the return. It came in game four, and he grabbed a break after Rinky's double fault to open a 3-1 advantage. The Spaniard served well in the rest of the set and wrapped it up with a service winner at 5-3 for two sets to one lead.

Nadal broke at love at 2-2 in the fourth set to forge the advantage and move closer to the finish line. A four-time champion came back from 40-0 down in the eighth game to deliver a hold and remain in front. Rinky served to stay in the match at 5-3 and faced five match points.

The youngster fended off the opening four before Nadal seized the fifth with his trademark forehand down the line winner that pushed him into the second round.