The 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal suffered a foot injury during the semi-final of that epic Roland Garros battle against Novak Djokovic. The Spaniard stayed away from the court for three weeks and missed Wimbledon and the Olympic Games to recover for the North American swing.
Competing for the first time since that heartbreaking Parisian loss, Nadal made a winning debut in Washington following a hard-fought 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 triumph over Jack Sock in three hours and four minutes. It was Nadal's sixth win from as many matches against Sock, and he had to work for it in sets two and three, overcoming a deficit in the decider to cross the finish line first.
Rafa raised his level from 2-0 down in the final set and produced rock-solid tennis in the tie break to move into the third round. After the match, Nadal said that he still feels the pain in his foot, especially after such a demanding encounter.
Still, he hopes to play tomorrow against Lloyd Harris in the third round, feeling good overall and just wishing for his foot to endure.
Rafael Nadal made a winning start in Washington, although his foot still hurts.
"The match wasn't easy.
I think I started more or less well. Then I played a bad game in the second set. As the encounter progressed, I began to feel the pain in my foot and suffer a bit too much. Jack played well from the second set, and I could not damage him with my shots or break his aggression and initiative.
It was tough, but I played better in the closing stages. That's the most important thing, and I hope to be ready for tomorrow. I have to improve my first serve percentage; that opened the door for Sock today. I knew he would be aggressive but also make mistakes.
My fitness is fine, more or less; I only wish my foot to hurt a bit less. You need matches like this to be fitter after a month without competing. That's part of the process, and I know it very well after going through those stuff many times in my career.
It's not something I'm worried about. Winning these kinds of matches helps you to be better. If I improve the condition of my foot, I think the rest will come step by step," Rafael Nadal said.