Competing for the first time since the Roland Garros semi-final, Rafael Nadal scored one victory on his Washington debut. The 20-time Major winner could not train for three weeks, and he came to Washington to seek form and matches ahead of Toronto.
With his foot still hurting a bit, Rafa defeated Jack Sock after over three hours in the second round, prevailing in the deciding tie break to set the clash against Lloyd Harris. In two hours and ten minutes, the South African stunned Nadal 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, starting all over in the third set and moving over the top with a late break in the tenth game.
The Spaniard did not play bad, but it was not enough to carry him home, losing ground in the pivotal moments and suffering an early exit. Harris had 16 aces and saved four out of six break chances. On the other hand, Nadal played against three break opportunities and experienced one loose service game in sets one and three to end his run in the third round.
Rafa had 26 winners and 11 unforced errors, while his rival counted to 38 winners and 21 mistakes, playing aggressive tennis and doing everything right in the closing stages. The South African made a strong start and had the upper hand with his serve and forehand while patiently seeking his chance to return.
It came in game seven when he broke Rafa at 15, building the advantage and cementing it with a hold at 15 thanks to yet another service winner. Serving for the set at 5-4, Harris fended off a break chance with a forehand crosscourt winner and landed another down the line for 6-4 after 38 minutes.
Rafael Nadal explained his Washington loss to Lloyd Harris.
Starting all over, Nadal raised his level in set number two and grabbed breaks in games four and six to take it 6-1 and gather momentum ahead of the decider. In the match's pivotal moment, Lloyd saved two break chances at the beginning of the final set and another at 2-2 with a powerful serve.
The South African returned at 5-4 and placed a perfect lob winner to steal Nadal's serve and seal the deal to celebrate the career's most notable victory. "I was ready to compete today. The most positive thing is that my foot was better today than yesterday, so that's the best news possible.
I played against a player that produced high-quality tennis. I think I played better than yesterday, but it's true that I wasted my return chances in the final set and played the last game really bad. That's the sport.
You can not make mistakes in the key moments, and I was nervous in that final game. My serve did not work a proper way, and that's it. Lloyd scored great victory, and I wish him all the best," Rafael Nadal said.