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A pumped up Rafal Nadal takes down Croatian Borna Coric under lights in the first round at Flushing Meadows.

Nadal Sees Off Coric Challenge

Rafael Nadal survives a third-set scare to advance in four

Rafael Nadal has avenged a defeat to Croatian young gun Borna Coric to reach the second round of the US Open on Monday night. The Spaniard, returning to Flushing Meadows for the first time since winning his second US Open title two years ago, came into the match having lost to his 18-year-old opponent in their only prior encounter – at the quarter-final stage in Basel last October.

But under lights on Arthur Ashes Stadium, the No. 8 seed ensured it would not be back-to-back defeats against the teenager, emerging 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and 46 minutes. “I think I played great. The first two sets I played a very high level of tennis,” Nadal said. “Seriously, then I get a little bit tired … But then in the fourth I recovered little bit. I played again more aggressive.”

When Nadal last claimed the US Open title in 2013, Coric – currently at No. 33 in the Emirates ATP Rankings – was the junior champion. And trailing two sets to love on Monday night, he showed the promise, which many had been talking about since his junior breakthrough. Coric pounced on back-to-back errors from the Nadal forehand to break and take the third set 6-4 after 48 minutes. 

“(It) is a small thing, but this small loss of energy (in the third set) is more loss of speed during a match against a player who is a fighter,” Nadal said. “He's a great player. He is tough, he takes a set.”

At 3-all in the fourth, Nadal landed the break with a forehand winner for 4-3. He brought up three match points with a forehand smash put-away and took it on his second with a serve down the T drawing the backhand error from the Croatian. 

Having been denied the chance to defend his title last year due to a right wrist injury, the 29 year old was not dwelling on the missed opportunity. Instead, the No. 8 seed chose to worry about his next match against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman

“I practised at a very high level of tennis during the previous weeks,” Nadal said. “That gives me calm. That gives me confidence. I know if I'm able to keep having those feelings … I will have the success again.”

It was success first tasted as a 19-year-old when he won Roland Garros for the time. As for whether Coric or one of the nine other teenagers entered into this year’s US Open men’s singles draw can emulate his achievement as a teenage slam winner, Nadal said it was not impossible.

“Is not too hard,” he said. “I did that, Hewitt did. It's not a question of the tennis changed and that's tough. Is a question if the new generations are good enough to do it, if the new generations are mentally prepared to do it.”

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