Nadal beat Almagro in US Open
Despite taking a fairly solid 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 third round over his friend Nicolas Almagro, six-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal received a kick in the gut, as his sore abdominal muscle acted up, and now he will be hard pressed to win his first US Open crown.
While Nadal stayed strong from the baseline and was the more effective attacking player than Almagro, he was forced to call a trainer to treat the injury, which occurred two weeks ago in Cincinnati.
The former No. 1 already had to take off two months to contend with tendonitis in his knees, and the normally exuberant Nadal was irritable in his post-match news conference. The 23-year-old had his stomach sprayed and taped while down 2-1 in the third set. He did not want to discuss the injury.
"I won 6-4, so you can see I didn't serve very fast," he said. "But I think I played better from the baseline than before. I was up and down a little bit. Almagro played really aggressive. I played a little bit short. I have to play more aggressive for next round, for sure. I gonna do."
Nadal will play Gael Monfils of France next. Monfils owns a victory against him, and the Frenchman loves the pumped-up environs of New York.
If Nadal is to win this tournament, he has to be at full strength, as serving at three-quarters speed and pushing his groundstrokes will give hard-hitting players like Monfils, or possibly the ultra-attacking Jo Tsonga in the quarters, a chance to jump on him.
"I know Monfils, and he knows me," said Nadal, who reached the semifinals last year and fell to Andy Murray. "I beat him a few times. He beat me one time, I think. Always tough opponent. Very, very fast player with a good serve. Very athletic player. Monfils is playing well, going to be difficult. But I have to play more aggressive for the next match. Today was enough, so happy for that. I am sure I can do it better."
But the US Open is the sole Grand Slam crown that eludes the Spaniard, and if he can receive enough treatment on the injury and find a way to lock in early and become offensive early in his matches, his title chances cannot be discounted.
"It's a very big tournament," he said. "If any day I win here, it's going to be very important title for me. But you know how tough is everything. Important thing is try my best every year when I come here and wait, feel good."