Rafael NadalThe nose was fine. Such was his tennis. No stitches or even a bandage 48 hours after he drew blood from an accidental hit with the bat – and, as usual, no hint of anger about it Richard Gasquet.
Nadal improved to 18-0 over Gasquet throughout his career and led his head-to-head set streak to 34 straight by winning the third-round matchup US Open 6-0, 6-1, 7-5 on Saturday night.
After Nadal, No. 2, won the first nine games, Gasquet finally won one after 70 minutes. When the 22-time Grand Slam champion netted a return at a serve of 97mph, Gasquet raised both arms as the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium gave him a standing ovation.
From there, things changed between the two 36-year-olds for the remainder of that set, with Nadal’s baseline power and placement being too much for Gasquet, who used to be a top 10 player but is now ranked 91st.
It was only in the third set that Gasquet made things more competitive, reaching 5-all before Nadal won the last two games to improve to 22-0 in Grand Slam games in 2022.
Next up for Nadal is a matchup against the number 22 on Monday Frances Tiafoe, an American who reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the third straight season. Nadal is 2-0 against Tiafoe.
“Now I think I can beat him. … I’ll definitely go after him,” said Tiafoe, 24, from Maryland.
“Balance his intensity from the first point to the last,” Tiafoe said after passing No. 14 Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (7) 6-4 6-4. “You can’t really have dips. He’s taking advantage.”
Nadal won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June, then reached the semifinals at Wimbledon before retiring from the grass court due to a torn abdominal muscle.
Before Nadal came to New York to capture a fifth championship at Flushing Meadows, Nadal tweaked his serve motion to reduce stress on his midsection and lowered his throw to not reach as far on the swing. The adjustment hasn’t hurt its effectiveness.
Nor does the bizarre mishap in a second-round win over Fabio Fognini on Thursday, when Nadal’s racquet bounced off the court onto the bridge of his nose on a backhand follow-through. He was bleeding and dizzy and worried that he had broken his nose.
“A little bigger than usual, but doable,” he said with a smile after eliminating Gasquet. “The nose is still there.”