Rafael Nadal drops first set but rallies to defeat Rinky Hijikata at US Open
TENNIS star Rafael Nadal and German Rafa Hijikata made a quick exit in the first set of their men’s doubles match at the US Open on Monday. Nadal, the world’s No. 1 in the world, fell behind Hijikata 1-2 and never looked in control.
Nadal and Hijikata will meet again at the Australian Open in January, and were seen in happier times by their fans.
“It’s not the same for two reasons,” Nadal said, smiling. “I can’t return to the same level. It’s too deep. Also, tennis in America is like a big family. We talk a lot. We see each other when we can.
“I’m always happy to play against my friend, to play against Rafa, and we saw each other a lot in the last year. So it’s not the same.”
On Sunday, Nadal played on the brink of defeat when Hijikata double-faulted and then saved two break points in the set. But with a service break and at 2-3 in the third game, Nadal took over.
“I took my chances,” said Nadal, who took just two games to break Hijikata, a doubles specialist who also plays singles on the professional tour. “I had a service game and played the next one, which was the only important shot.”
In the final set, Nadal broke Hijikata again, and he was serving for the match. As he celebrated, he was approached by a fan who handed him his shirt in the hallway after the match.
“It’s a nice gesture,” Nadal said. “Of course it’s a nice gesture. You’re playing my opponent. I’ll take care of him.”
The last eight games of their match showed an improvement in both men’s abilities. In the third set Hijikata was up three sets to one but Nadal survived a break