Rafael Nadal is back to winning. Since his quarter-final against Taylor Fritz at Wimbledon on 6 July, the Spaniard has been weaned from success. Long absence due to an abdominal injury contracted on the same day at the London Center, then defeated at the entrance for recovery in Cincinnati six weeks later against Borna Coric. On Tuesday, Nadal’s phenomenal 2022 season gained momentum. Gently, because he didn’t always enjoy himself against the surprising Rinky Hijikata, who only gave up in four sets (4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3) and more than three hours of play.
New York (and probably much of the rest of the world) has discovered a promising player asking to be reviewed. 198th in the world, the 21-year-old Australian was playing his first Grand Slam game. On the largest field in the world. Against the most successful player in Grand Slam history. There would be enough to be paralyzed. But it was just the opposite. Rinky Hijikata has played free since the start of the match. Fist in exchange, sacred slaps in the forehand, wands of fire and the ability to appreciate the moment without getting caught.
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Result, it is he who signs the first break of the match, on a point that sums up the boy well with a rush forward to distill a considerable counter-amortization. Opposite, Nadal was a bit rusty, solid color. Too many faults, especially in exchange for the serve, little consistency and it is very logical that the number 3 in the world ended up losing this initial set. It was already a small sensation. But he wouldn’t get gigantic. The rest of the debates found a more logical picture, with a Nadal rising to power and a Hijikata stopping (ending?) Playing fire.
In each of the next three rounds, the Majorcan had the good idea of breaking away from the start, or early enough to find himself in a comfortable situation. But the drought of the score of these three sets testifies in a rather unfair way the quality of the opposition. Rinky Hijikata remained until the end of his match, as a very tight end of the fourth set. The last two games lasted more than 20 minutes.
In the first Nadal, under 0-40, saves his serve on the wire. In the second, he had to wait for his fifth match point to finally end, with a marvel of right-of-way from the long line. A monstrous slap as the perfect final exclamation point. In the end, a qualification without shaking but without having fun even for the quadruple winner of the US Open. And it’s not that bad. Just enough to put him in his fortnight right away.
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