22-time Major champion Rafael Nadal will start his 16th US Open campaign on Tuesday night. Rafa meets world No. 1. 198 Rinky Hijikata in the first round as the young Australian received a wild card to his first major of his career.
Rinky failed three qualifying rounds at majors in previous years. His tennis association gave him the chance to debut on the big stage in New York against one of the greatest players of all time. Rafa will play against a wild card player for the 18th time in Majors, win 15 and hope to stick to two losses.
Nadal’s first encounter with a wild card came during his major debut at Wimbledon in 2003. Rafa defeated Lee Childs 6-2 6-4 6-3 to advance to the third round. Nadal faced three wildcard players at the 2005 US Open, overcoming the first two obstacles before falling to the third.
Nadal defeated Bobby Reynolds and Scoville Jenkins before losing to James Blake in four sets.
Rafael Nadal is 15-2 against wild card players at majors.
The American gave his best in front of his home crowd, toppling the Spaniard in sets three and four to move on top and claim a mighty win.
Nadal won three wins against wild card players in 2006 and 2007, and two more in 2010 at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Rafa picked up five more wins before facing Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round of Wimbledon 2014.
The young Aussie delivered a thrilling 7-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 triumph in just under three hours to secure Rafa’s second and final loss to a wildcard. Nadal’s 17th game against these opponents came at the 2019 Australian Open, defeating James Duckworth 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 in two hours and 15 minutes.
It was Nadal’s first match since last year’s US Open and he played well on both serves and returns. Duckworth twice broke Nadal from three chances while Rafa grabbed six breaks to control the scoreboard and advance to the second round.
They hit a similar number of winners and Nadal was more efficient in taming his groundstrokes. He stayed on 11 unforced errors while James counted to 40, unable to put his shots through and find the open field on the other side of the net.
The Spaniard took a 3-2 break of serve lead in set number three before suffering an unexpected break of serve as he served 5-3 for the win. Still, Nadal repaired the damage with a backhand crosscourt winner that gave him a break in game 12 and pushed him through to the next round.