tRafael Nadal‘s return to the tennis court has ended with a shock loss, as the Spaniard went down in three sets to Croatia’s Borna Coric at the Cincinnati Open.
The 25-year-old took a mammoth first set tiebreaker 11-9, and went on to win the second round match, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3.
As the number two seed, Nadal was granted a bye into the round of 32, this match serving as his much-anticipated comeback after withdrawing from the Wimbledon semi-finals with injury.
But a sluggish Nadal showed signs of rust throughout, producing more double faults than aces during the defeat.
“It’s sad to not play here, I need to get into grand slam mode,” Nadal told reporters, expressing his desire for more ‘practice’ before the major begins.
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“I need to return better. I need days. It’s better to come back when you’ve spent a period of time outside and win your first match. I wasn’t ready enough to win the match today. The big thing is to stay healthy. It’s a difficult injury to manage. I need to take it step-by-step.”
The only remaining stop on the calendar before the US Open is the Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina, an ATP 250 event that Nadal is unlikely to play in.
The more likely scenario now is that he goes into New York with just this defeat under his belt.
“It was very, very special,” Coric said on court after the win.
“I’ve been out the last two years injured. I didn’t play on the big stage in front of the crowd.
“I was honestly really just looking forward to playing this match as I hadn’t had that in the last two years – and now also that I’ve won, it was kind of crazy, I would say.”
It was Coric’s third win over Nadal, the previous coming six years ago at the same event.
He will now play Nadal’s countryman Roberto Bautista Agut in the round of 16.
“It’s going to be very tough, I think last time we played I lost against him,” he said of his next opponent.
“It’s going to be a very interesting match, for sure – I need to be very aggressive, especially as I was playing for a very, very long time today and I also finished very late.”
In earlier results, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios and Alex De Minaur both suffered straight sets losses.
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