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US Open 2022: Rafa Nadal wins FIRST match at Flushing Meadows since 2019, rolls past Rinky Hijikata

Rafa Nadal did not show any serious lingering effects from the torn abdominal muscle that forced the 22-time Grand Slam champion to pull out of Wimbledon before he was supposed to play in the semifinals. 

US Open 2022: Rafa Nadal wins FIRST match at Flushing Meadows since 2019, rolls past Rinky Hijikata

Rafael Nadal’s first US Open match since 2019 ended with a four-set victory over a player making his Grand Slam debut. Nadal improved to 20-0 in matches at major tournaments this season by beating Australian wild-card entry Rinky Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 across more than three hours in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night.

Nadal did not show any serious lingering effects from the torn abdominal muscle that forced the 22-time Grand Slam champion to pull out of Wimbledon before he was supposed to play in the semifinals. That does not go down on his record as a loss, because he did not take the court for the match. Nadal has won the US Open four times, including three years ago. He then did not return in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic or last year because of an injured left foot.

The 21-year-old Hijikata was a wild-card entry who played college tennis at North Carolina.

Venus Williams sent packing

The welcome and support for Venus Williams in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday afternoon were not the same as they were for her sister, Serena, a night earlier. Nor was the result. Venus, who turned 42 in June, has not made any pronouncements about her future in tennis, unlike her younger sibling, and while she has been successful and influential, too — a seven-time Grand Slam champion; a Black woman in a predominantly white sport — the fanfare and attention are not the same.

Playing in front of thousands of empty blue seats in an arena quite silent at the start, although growing louder later, Venus bowed out in the first round of the US Open 2022 for the second consecutive appearance, losing 6-1, 7-6 (5) to Alison Van Uytvanck. “She means so much to female tennis. Tennis, in general,” Van Uytvanck said. “She’s a legend.”

This was the 23rd trip to Flushing Meadows for Venus, who made it to the final in 1997 as a teen then won the trophy in 2000 and 2001, and her record 91st time participating in a major tournament.

Venus had never lost in the opening round at the US Open until 2020, then was absent last year. Asked what keeps her motivated these days, she answered: “Three letters: W-I-N. That’s it. Very simple.”

(with PTI inputs)

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