The 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal had roughly two months, dealing with a foot injury experienced at the Roland Garros semi-final against Novak Djokovic. Skipping Wimbledon and the Olympic Games, the Spaniard decided to change his schedule and enter the Citi Open in Washington, making his debut in the American capital.
Never visiting Washington before, Nadal enjoyed a couple of great days exploring the city, receiving positive vibes from the crowd and feeling their support during the matches. In the second round, Rafa made a debut against Jack Sock and tested his foot in a three-hour win, prevailing in the deciding tie break for his first victory in over a month and a half.
Nadal stepped on the court against Lloyd Harris in the third round and suffered a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 defeat in two hours and ten minutes. The Spaniard did not play bad, but it was not enough to carry him home after losing ground in the pivotal moments.
Harris had 16 aces and saved four out of six break chances. Nadal played against three break opportunities and experienced one loose service game in sets one and three to end his run earlier than expected. Rafa had 26 winners and 11 unforced errors, while Lloyd counted to 38 winners and 21 mistakes, playing aggressive tennis and doing everything right when it mattered the most.
The South African broke Nadal at 15 in the opener's game seven and fended off a break chance with a forehand crosscourt winner in game ten to take the set 6-4.
Rafael Nadal had a great time in Washington, despite an early loss.
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 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.
"The atmosphere has been fantastic, right from the beginning. I can not thank all the people enough here in Washington. Honestly, the support and the level of energy have been tremendous. I'm trying to do things in the best way I can.
If that inspires the kids to catch a racquet, I'm happy. We need kids playing tennis as much as possible, so if my arrival to Washington helped add one small kid to the world of tennis, I'm proud of it. I hope that tennis stays on the highest level in terms of popularity and gathers many people worldwide.
My first Washington trip has been excellent. People are very passionate about our sport. The most painful thing is that I can not step on the court again tomorrow in front of this incredible crowd. Learning about a new city was a great experience for me. I enjoyed it, and will remember people's support and love," Rafael Nadal said.
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