Rafael Nadal drops first set but rallies to defeat Rinky Hijikata at US Open
Rafael Nadal outlasted Rinky Hijikata in the second round of the US Open, his first time back since losing in the final the last two years to the Japanese player.
Nadal beat Hijikata, a former world number one, 12-10, 7-5, 6-4, to advance into the semi-finals of the US Open for the first time since 2014-15.
“I was really nervous, but I felt good at the same time,” Nadal, 31, told reporters on Court Philippe Chatrier.
He said: “I did the best I could, and I was pretty close to the moment.”
Nadal also beat world number one Stan Wawrinka in the last-16 match, but the Swiss, who won the 2017 French Open to claim his eighth Grand Slam title, was unable to take full advantage of a sluggish Nadal in the opening set.
Nadal, who is seeded No 6 in the US Open at next year’s event, has been the leading player in the career Grand Slam singles lists at all levels. Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga have been his closest rivals.
At age 21, Nadal is currently ranked world No 1 for the first time, with Wawrinka second and Tsonga tied for third. He will next play Tsonga in the last-16 match on Friday.
Nadal won the title in Atlanta, which was his final tournament of the year after winning the French Open and Wimbledon titles. The only other men in the top 10 who reached the last eight at the US Open were Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
“It’s been a great year and I am happy to come here and see all my friends,” Nadal said. “