Nadal turns up power

Spaniard displays stronger serve in 1st round victory

September 01, 2010|By Tribune Newspapers

NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal came to Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing all black Tuesday night, and he also came armed with a new U.S. Open game plan.

Nadal amped up his service power, and though he missed on his first seven service break points, he converted an eighth and on a hot day that turned into a long night, the top-seeded Nadal won his first-round U.S. Open match 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-3 over 93rd-ranked Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia.

The 24-year-old Spaniard has won eight major tournaments and at least one of the other three Grand Slams — the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon — but has never gotten past the semifinals of the U.S. Open.

Nadal's hard-fought win came after an eventful day in Ashe Stadium, where both third-seeded Novak Djokovic and 14th-seeded Maria Sharapova had to use all the sets to win.

Sharapova never changed her plan, to be aggressive, to aim her groundstrokes deep and on the lines, not even when she dropped the first set to undistinguished Jarmila Groth, who is ranked 60th in the world. Sharapova's relentlessness helped her move into the second round with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over Groth.

The day matches were played in stifling heat that pushed the temperature on the courts to 110, and the weather almost took out the third-seeded Djokovic, who notoriously struggles in heat.

Djokovic, who was a semifinalist the last two years here and a finalist in 2007, needed 3 hours, 40 minutes and had several scares, especially when he was down a break in the fourth set, before he was able to towel off, catch his breath and beat fellow Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.

"Look, it was hot," Djokovic said. "It was just very hot. That's all basically I can say. You just have to try to be patient and wait for the shadows like I did."

"I knew I had a tough first-round opponent," Sharapova said of Groth, who had taken out Melanie Oudin at Wimbledon. "She came out firing. I'm glad I hung in, fought and gave myself a chance to get better."

Upset of the day: Sixteenth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus lost to 32-year-old Arnaud Clement of France 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5. Clement said he'd had no clue he could play well enough to win a match.

Quote of the day: Mardy Fish, seeded 19th, who is 30 pounds lighter this summer, was asked after he outlasted Jan Hajek 6-0, 3-6, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1, what he thought when he sees pictures of himself from a couple of years ago: "I look at Stacey (his wife) and say, 'What's your problem? Why didn't somebody tell me I looked like that?' "

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