NEW YORK – Rafael Nadal cut the bridge of his nose with his own racquet when it ricocheted off the pitch from a shot, leaving himself bloodied and dizzy in his second-round victory at the US Open.
The game was delayed around five minutes during a medical stoppage in the fourth set of what would become a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 win over Fabio Fognini at Arthur Ashe Stadium in a match that started Thursday night. and finished after midnight on Friday.
This created a bizarre and briefly chilling scene. Nadal winced immediately, dropped his racquet, put a palm to his face and then put both hands on his head. At least Nadal could joke about it afterwards during his on-court interview.
When asked if this had ever happened to him before, he laughed and replied, “With a golf club but not with a tennis racket.”
How did he feel?
“Well, just a little giddy at first,” said Nadal, who has won four of his 22 Grand Slam titles at the US Open, most recently in 2019, the last time he played in the tournament on hard ground. “A little painful.”
The episode came on the first point of the game with Nadal leading 3-0 in the fourth set and clearly in control after giving up the first set for the second game in a row this week.
Nadal, 36, was moving to his right when he hit a backhand. After touching the ball, his racquet deflected off the ground and hit him on the nose.
He went to the sideline and lay down, waiting for the coach, and Fognini went to see Nadal. After having a bandage put on his nose, Nadal returned to play. He would lose that match, but not another, going 21-0 in the 2022 Grand Slam matches.
Nadal won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June for his 14th title there, then qualified for the semi-finals at Wimbledon in July before the abdominal problem forced him to retire (which doesn’t go into the books as a loss).
The match against Fognini, who beat him at the 2015 US Open, did not start auspiciously for Nadal. His shots were misfired and he quickly fell behind.
“For more than an hour and a half I was not competing,” Nadal said. “One of the worst starts, probably, ever.”
The second set was hardly a good one for either man, filled with poor play from both: they combined for 39 unforced errors and just nine winners, seven service breaks and just three catches.
“Honestly, I was lucky that Fabio made mistakes in that second set,” Nadal said.
When Nadal threw a backhand into the net, Fognini broke to lead 3-2 and then took a 4-2 lead. But from there it was Fognini who faltered, missing four shots in a row to break at love as part of Nadal’s four-game run to make a set apiece.
In the third, Nadal landed a particularly perfect shot – a forehand on the run that redirected an aerial from Fognini and sent it down the line for a winner to break for 4-2. Nadal’s momentum carried him to the edge of the stands, where thousands of people were standing, and he punched the air and shouted, “Vamos!”
Soon after, this set will also belong to Nadal, and he will collect 16 of the last 19 games.
Next up for Nadal is a third-round game against Richard Gasquet, a 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 winner over No. 32 seed Miomir Kecmanovic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
. Rafael Nadal beats Fabio Fognini four sets in match second round lUS Open