Rafael Nadal had to skip the fourth straight Cincinnati Masters 1000 event due to a foot injury, not competing in Ohio since 2017. In his last Cincinnati campaign, the 2013 champion made a winning start after beating his old rival Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 25 minutes.
It was the 15th meeting between these two, the first since Basel 2015, and Nadal maintained his perfect record against the coeval, taking the last 25 sets against the Frenchman! This encounter was all about Rafa, as he dropped only 13 points in ten service games and finished with 25 winners and 19 unforced errors, leaving Gasquet's 13-26 ratio behind.
The Spaniard was in front in the shortest exchanges, firing eight aces and playing well with his first groundstroke after the serve. Nadal also claimed most of the more extended rallies to score a commanding triumph and reach the third round.
Rafael Nadal beat Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati 2017.
Nadal faced just one break point, and Gasquet had to play against seven, saving five of those but losing serve once in each set to hit the exit door. It was a shaky start for both players before the first break in game four after Richard's double fault that sent him 3-1 down.
Nadal served well until the end of the set to keep the advantage, and it could have gotten even more convincing had he converted two more opportunities in game six. Serving well, Rafa remained in front despite wasting those, wrapping up the opener with three service winners in game nine after 43 minutes.
Nadal lost just four points on serve in set number two, waiting for one good return game to seal the deal and move into the next round. It came at 1-1 after Richard's backhand error, and it was enough to drive him home from there.
The Frenchman raised his level behind the initial shot and produced a couple of comfortable holds, although he needed a break to prolong his chances. Nadal did not offer him any, though, controlling the pace and moving over the top with three winners at 5-4 that propelled him into the next round.
The Spaniard was happy about how he performed, especially after that shocking loss to Denis Shapovalov in Montreal a week ago.