'Rafael Nadal has got to play himself in', says former ace

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'Rafael Nadal has got to play himself in', says former ace

Rafael Nadal's nineteen-match winning streak at the Slams is yet to come to an end for all intents and purposes, as he was forced to miss the Wimbledon semi-final with an abdominal problem. The same, essentially, that prevented him from participating in the number one section of the mini-tournament on North American cement, in Montreal.

The Spanish champion, who after his defeat in his debut against Borna Coric in Cincinnati immediately moved to New York to start training, finally learned the name of his first-round rival and the hypothetical path to the 23rd Slam and first place of the ranking.

Despite the various concurrences (he could even afford to fall in the first round if the four pursuers do not reach the quarter-finals), the Spanish champions are confident that they have his fate in their own hands. It is not a small luxury.

After a fairly accessible first round against the Australian Hijikata, the Spaniard could meet Fabio Fognini again on the concrete of Flushing Meadows. The previous one, in 2015, was unforgettable, with the Italian able to recover from two sets and a break down before heroically winning the first set.

Only Federer (in Miami, in 2004) had achieved a similar feat. In short: Fognini or Aslan Karatsev, a far from obvious rival for the Italian tennis player, who in New York has never made the cut for the fourth round. The way is more or less paved, at least until the round of 16: theoretically, the worst possible opponent in the third round could be Miomir Kecmanovic, while in the quarterfinals he could meet Diego Schwartzman.

Nadal is 19-0 at Majors this year

Mark Knowles said on Tennis Channel that Rafael Nadal's experience in the Majors could stand him in good stead, especially if he survives the first few rounds, where he's at his most vulnerable on hardcourts.

"Rafael Nadal knows how to win Majors. He has got a great draw early. Only time Rafa gets in a bit of trouble on hardcourt is early. I like his chances. He has got to play himself in," he said. "He has got Alcaraz possibly if they both advance to the semifinal, I am going to go with experience," said Knowles.

"Medvedev has got a tricky draw, depending on what happens in the Nick Kyrgios section. I am going with Rafael Nadal on the men's side." Nadal is 19-0 at Majors this year, winning the Australian Open and Roland Garros.