Defending Champ Nadal Advances On Emotional Opening Night
It might not have happened the way he expected against his close friend, but defending champion and World No. 1 Rafael Nadal advanced to the second round of the US Open on Monday evening, as David Ferrer retired while Nadal led 6-3, 3-4.
"I'm very sad about what happened to him in his last match probably on a Grand Slam. But that's like this. That's life," Nadal said. "He deserved a better finish on a Grand Slam. But I am sure that he will have the right finish for him in the tournaments that he decides to play to finish his career."
It was an emotional moment for the Spaniards in Arthur Ashe Stadium, as Ferrer was attempting to reproduce the magic that helped him to the semi-finals here in 2007 and 2012. But despite leading by a break in the second set, Ferrer could not continue due to a calf injury, forcing him to retire for the first time in 208 Grand Slam matches.
"I knew that it was impossible finish the match. I tried two more games. Finally I decided to retire because it's worse to play and break it, break everything," Ferrer said. "Of course I'm sad because it's my last Grand Slam. I was enjoying playing the match against Rafa. I was playing good. But anyway, I am proud with myself, with my career. It's not a problem."
Nadal told ESPN on court, "I am very, very sorry for him. He is one of my closest friends on tour. We've shared amazing moments together... and he's one of the greatest players our country has ever had."
Despite the disappointing end to his Grand Slam career, Ferrer remained gracious to the end, signing autographs for fans. He was in no way bitter that he had to face the top seed in his final match at a major. In fact, his mindset was quite the opposite.
"It was special because I finished my last Grand Slam playing in the centre court with Rafael Nadal, because he's a very good friend," Ferrer said. "[I'm] sad because I couldn't finish the match. [But] it's not a problem. I am a lucky man."
Nadal and Ferrer, who contested the 2013 Roland Garros final, became the fifth pair in the Open Era to meet in the opening round of a major as well as a championship match. The first time the duo met in New York, 11 years ago, Ferrer triumphed in four sets. But Nadal continues on in his title defence, as he seeks a fourth trophy in New York. The top seed will next face Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who beat Lukas Lacko 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.
The first seeded-opponent Nadal could face, No. 27 seed Karen Khachanov, was impressive in dismissing 2017 Monte-Carlo runner-up Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. The Russian now leads the Spaniard 4-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series after their first four meetings went to deciding sets.
Khachanov will next face Italian lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego, who came from two sets to one and a break down to beat Gilles Muller in the Luxembourg star's final match, 7-6(2), 6-7(9), 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-2 in four hours, 16 minutes.
Another Italian caused an upset on Monday, as veteran Paolo Lorenzi beat British No. 1 Kyle Edmund 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-1. He will next face Argentine Guido Pella, who beat Norwegian Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-4, 6-1.