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Rafael Nadal matches Roger Federer’s US Open record

Rafael Nadal made his US Open debut in 2003 at 17. A teenager toppled word no. 61 Fernando Vicente in straight sets to celebrate his first triumph in New York. Nineteen years later and with four trophies on his tally, Nadal is still among the players to beat at the US Open, entering the draw as the 2nd seed.

Rafa made a winning start at his 16th US Open with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Australia’s Rinky Hijikata in three hours and eight minutes. Thus, Nadal joined Federer at 19 years between the first and last US Open victories.

It was Nadal’s second match after he withdrew from Wimbledon, and he was pleased with his performance. The Spaniard lost serve once in the opener and defended three break points in the third set to keep the pressure on the other side after the opener.

World no. 198 made an excellent start against one of the greatest players ever.

Rafael Nadal has been competitive in New York for almost 20 years.

Still, he could not keep that level from set number two and hit the exit door.

Nadal broke Rinky five times from ten opportunities and moved into the second round for the 16th time from as many trips to New York. The opening set was tight, offering only one break chance in the seventh game. Rinky broke Rafa at 30 with a winner at the net to forge a 4-3 advantage.

The Australian served well in all five service games and secured the first set with a booming serve at 5-4 after 44 minutes. Nadal started all over in the second set and delivered four comfortable holds. Hijikata could not follow that pace and lost serve twice.

The Spaniard earned his first break in game two after the rival’s loose forehand. Hijikata served to stay in the set at 5-2 and suffered the second break to hand the set to Nadal. A four-time champion served well in the third set and waited for a chance on the return.

It came in game four, and he grabbed it after Rinky’s double fault to open a 3-1 advantage. The Spaniard served well in the rest of the set and wrapped it up with a service winner at 5-3. Nadal broke at love at 2-2 in the fourth set to forge the advantage and move closer to the finish line.

He came back from 40-0 down in the eighth game to deliver a hold and remain in front. Rinky served to stay in the match at 5-3 and faced five match points. The youngster fended off the first four before Nadal seized the fifth with his trademark forehand down the line winner.

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