Rafael Nadal experienced an abdominal injury at the last year's Wimbledon, skipping Montreal and returning to action in Cincinnati. Rafa faced Borna Coric in the second round in Ohio and suffered a 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 loss in grueling two hours and 51 minutes.
Thus, the Spaniard experienced his earliest loss in almost six years, gathering dark clouds over his US Open preparation. Nadal could only train a little after Wimbledon, and his serve was still miles behind where he wanted it to be in Cincinnati.
He explained his training sessions, giving his everything against Borna and fighting until the end. The Spaniard missed his chances in the opener and suffered a break in the decider to hit the exit door. There were only three break chances in the entire encounter, and the rivals grabbed one return game in sets two and three.
Borna missed the only break chance in the opener at 3-3, and the set went into a tie break after a rain delay. Rafa came back from 4-2 down and grabbed three straight points. He earned the first set point at 6-5 but failed to convert it on his serve.
Borna saved the second at 6-7 and created his first at 8-7. Nadal saved it with a forced error and denied the second to lock the result at 9-9.
Rafael Nadal lost in the second round in Cincinnati last year.
Rafa hit an expensive double fault at 9-10 to lose the opener after an hour and 14 minutes!
The Spaniard served well in the second set and grabbed a break at 3-3 after Coric's loose forehand. Nadal moved 5-3 up with a winner at the net and closed the set with another at 5-4, forcing a decider. Both players served under 50% in the final set and still lost only 11 points in service games.
Coric produced five comfortable holds and kept the pressure on the other side. The Croat forced Nadal's forehand mistake at 3-2 for two break chances. Rafa played a loose forehand to get broken and fall 4-2 behind. Borna served for the victory in game nine and held with a forehand crosscourt forehand to seal the deal and celebrate a notable triumph.
"I had a bit of a relaxed approach in Cincinnati during my practice sessions. I gave my best against Borna Coric without pushing my serve too much; I fought until the end. I'm doing my best to prepare for the US Open and play competitive tennis," Rafael Nadal said.