Rafael Nadal drops first set but rallies to defeat Rinky Hijikata at US Open
Rafael Nadal came to the US Open as the heavy favorite to win his first Grand Slam title here Sunday, but then faded in the second half of the draw, finishing in 12th place to drop his record-setting seventh Grand Slam singles match, the lowest by a Spaniard since Fernando Verdasco in 2009.
The only other Spaniard to win a Grand Slam title in singles was Tommy Robredo in the 2002 French Open at the age of 23.
Nadal’s third-round match, which he lost to compatriot David Ferrer, had been his highest-seeded performance at a Grand Slam event since the 2011 Australian Open, when he was down a set and a break to Roger Federer, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.
Nadal dropped the first set in a tiebreaker but recovered to win the second, in a match which lasted 11 hours. He would eventually take the title after trailing 3-2 in the deciding set and 5-3 in the third.
“I was so nervous. After the match I couldn’t eat right; I had to throw up,” said the 30-year-old Spaniard, ranked No. 1. “I just did my best. I’m happy.”
He ended the tournament with a 13-6 victory over 19-year-old Czech hunk Daniel Evans at the No. 2 position, in the fourth of his final four matches of the tournament to win a slam since 2009.
The tournament was shortened to 14 rounds from the normal 16, with the final Grand Slam of the season also being reduced by a set to nine. The men’s final – the top-ranked player in the world, Novak Djokovic, was unable to defend his title because of a hip problem.
But that was the first time he played fewer sets in a Grand Slam match and made the final. Nadal went 6-2 down in the quarterfinal tiebreaker, which meant the match would have to be completed in five sets, with each side starting with three aces per game.
After a 30-minute break, Nad