Rafael Nadal works hard ahead of his comeback in Montreal next week, doing everything to recover from an abdominal injury. A year ago, Rafa struggled with a foot injury and played only two matches after Washington. Nadal injured his foot against Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros semi-final and skipped Wimbledon and the Olympic Games.
The Spaniard started to train again in July and surprised everyone after taking the ATP 500 Washington wild card. Rafa debuted in the American capital and enjoyed a couple of great days exploring the city, receiving positive vibes from the crowd and feeling their support.
Rafa debuted in the second round against Jack Sock and tested his foot to the limits. The Spaniard prevailed in the deciding set tie break and spent over three hours on the court. 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 badly, 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. In comparison, Lloyd counted 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 it 6-4.
Rafael Nadal enjoyed his time in Washington last year.
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. 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 in 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 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.