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By Chris Oddo | Thursday August 31, 2017

 
Nadal

Rafael Nadal stormed back from a set and break down to take his place in the third round at the U.S. Open.

Photo Source: Clive Brunskill/Getty

It wasn’t quite the cliffhanger that Roger Federer experienced on Day 4, but Rafael Nadal’s 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Japan’s Taro Daniel was no walk in the park.

More: Federer Finds a Way Past Youzhny in Five

The top-seeded Spaniard had to rally from a set and break down to keep his hopes of earning a third U.S. Open title alive and he did so with moxie, rebounding to dominate Daniel in the latter stages of their two hour and 53 minute contest.

“Was a good fight,” Nadal assessed after the match. “I think I improved. The last two sets I played better, and that's important for what's coming, no?”


What is coming is a third-round showdown with Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer and, if all goes as planned, a semifinal showdown with Roger Federer with the No.1 ranking at stake.

“I need to play better than what I did if I want to have chances of success,” Nadal deadpanned. “That's what I going to try to do.”

One step at a time, one point at a time, and hopefully one win at a time. There were moments when Nadal looked very imperious on Thursday evening. His forehand gained velocity and menace as the match progressed, and he finished with 40 winners while a gassed Daniel faded into the New York night.

It was a strong finish, but Nadal seemed to be more aware of the slow start that left him in danger after 90 minutes.

“I need to compete better,” he said. “I believe I can do it.”

He elaborated further.

“I saw it on the video screen, I hit around 40 winners,” he said. “That's not bad number. But 35 unforced errors, that's a bad number for me. I need to fix that. I need to improve that.”

With two rounds in the books Nadal may have not found his best tennis yet. But judging from his tone, and what we saw in the second half of the match, it could be coming soon.

And so could a 16th major title.

 

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