Three Things that Stood Out in Rafael Nadal’s Win over Rinky Hijikata

Rafael Nadal 2022 US Open

Second seed Rafael Nadal of Spain beat Rinky Hijikata of Australia 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-3 to move into the second round of the US Open on Tuesday. The match lasted for two hours and five minutes.

Nadal will take on Fabio Fognini of Italy in the second round on Thursday. The 36-year-old Spaniard is gunning for a record-equaling fifth US Open title this year. It will be interesting to watch his approach against the hard-hitting Fognini.

On that note, let’s look at three factors that stood out in the match:

#1 Hijikita won the first set displaying quality tennis:

Hijikata and Nadal managed to hold their serve for the first seven games of the first set, but the 21-year-old Australian then broke the Spaniard in the eighth game to go 5-3 up. He then served out the first set after Nadal held his serve in the ninth game.

Hijikata played the drop shots really well to drag Nadal repeatedly into the net. To his credit, the Spaniard displayed great court-coverage to get to the balls time and again. However, Hijkata often succeeded in passing the Spaniard from the baseline to win points.

#2 Nadal bounced back to win the second set convincingly:

Nadal roared back in customary fashion in the second set to draw level. He broke Hijikata in the second game of the second set en route to winning the first three games. Hijikata then managed to win a couple of games, but the Spaniard again broke him in the seventh game to go 5-2 up. The Spaniard then served out the second set.

Nadal continued to move well in the second set and also played his down-the-line forehands to great effect. He often pulled the trigger in time to give Hijikata no chance to get to the ball. The Spaniard also rushed the net quite often to win points with volleys.

#3 Nadal won the third and fourth sets with relative ease:

By the beginning of the third set, Nadal was in his element and gave Hijitkata no chance to get a grip on the match. He broke Hijikata twice in the third set to win it 6-3. Hijikata’s serve then wilted under pressure in the fourth set and he got broken repeatedly to hand Nadal a win.

Nadal kept dictating terms with his forehand in the last two sets. He moved Hijikata from side to side and also played the drop shots occasionally. Hijikata came up with a few winners himself, but his efforts were not enough to get the better of Nadal.

Nadal’s first-serve ratio was not very good in the match, but he won 77% of the points on his first serve. Moreover, he put pressure on Hijikata’s second serve repeatedly, as the Australian could win only 48% of the points on his second serve and got broken five times in the match.

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