Rafael Nadal is competing at the US Open for the 16th time, chasing the fifth title and the first since 2019. Nadal's first quarter-final in New York came in 2006 after three early losses in the previous years. Rafa debuted at the US Open in 2003, scoring one win and repeating that a year later.
Nadal became world no. 2 in the summer of 2005, claiming his first Major crown in June and conquering three straight titles in July and August. After the Roland Garros crown, Rafa made an early exit at Wimbledon and hoped for a better run at the US Open.
A teenager secured two victories in New York before falling to James Blake in four sets and hitting the exit door. In the first match, the Spaniard defeated Bobby Reynolds 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, never losing serve and producing four breaks for a winning start.
World no. 352 Scoville Jenkins gave his best against Rafa in the second round before the favorite prevailed 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in just under two and a half hours. Rafa was unhappy with his level in the opening two matches and wished to improve it ahead of a dangerous opponent in the next one.
Rafael Nadal suffered an early exit at the US Open 2005 to James Blake.
As it turned out, an inspired Blake proved too strong for Nadal. The American beat a teenager 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 to move into the last 16 in front of the partisan fans.
Nadal was not pleased with his performance, lacking confidence in the crucial moments and having nothing left in the tank in set number four. James fended off eight out of ten break chances and stole Rafa's serve six times to control the scoreboard and earn one of the career-best triumphs at that moment.
James broke Rafa at 4-4 in the opening set and served for it in the next one. The Spaniard responded with a return game at 5-4 in the second set to gain a boost and improve his chances. Blake broke at 2-2 in the third set and controlled the pace to wrap it up 6-3 and move closer to the finish line.
The American was the only player on the court in set number four, overpowering world no. 2 and sending him out before the second week. "I lost at one of the world's best tournaments, and I'm not very happy. I knew it would be tough; Blake is playing great tennis.
I was unhappy about my game in the opening two rounds; I improved it a bit today, but it was not enough. There were some unlucky points in the opening set, and I could have finished the second earlier. I broke James in the tenth game to take the set and gain some confidence before starting well in the third.
I played a terrible game on my serve, which sent me back. Blake is fast, and he has a great forehand. He had deep runs ahead of the US Open and won two notable matches in New York before facing me. That gave him confidence, and he showed it today. I lost confidence in the fourth set, and he played well, doing everything right on the court," Rafael Nadal said.