Rafael Nadal’s nose bloodied by own racket at U.S. Open in victory

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NEW YORK – Rafael Nadal cut himself on the bridge of his nose with his own racket when it ricocheted off the court on the follow-through from a shot, leaving himself bloodied and dizzy during his second-round victory at the U.S. Open.

Play was delayed for about five minutes during a medical timeout in the fourth set of what would become a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 win against Fabio Fognini at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It made for a bizarre, and briefly scary, scene, as Nadal immediately grimaced, dropped his racket, put a palm to his face and then placed both hands on his head. He said at his post-match news conference he thought right away that he might have broken his nose, which kept swelling.

He said it was a “shock” when it happened and he felt “a little bit out of the world.”

Still, Nadal managed to joke about it all. Asked during his on-court interview whether he’d ever had that happen before, he mustered a chuckle and replied: “With a golf club but not with a tennis racket.”

How was he feeling?

“Well, just a little bit dizzy at the beginning,” said Nadal, who has won four of his 22 Grand Slam titles at the U.S. Open, most recently in 2019, the last time he entered the hard-court tournament. “A little bit painful.”

The episode came on the first point of the game with Nadal leading 3-0 in the fourth set and clearly in command after ceding the opening set for the second match in a row this week.

The 36-year-old from Spain was moving to his right when he hit a backhand. After making contact with the ball, his racket deflected off the ground and smacked him on the nose.

He went over to the sideline and layed down, waiting for the trainer, and Fognini went over to check on Nadal.

“He told me everything was OK,” Fognini said later. “I hope it’s nothing serious.”

After having a bandage put on his nose, Nadal resumed play. He would lose that game, but not another, improving to 21-0 in Grand Slam matches in 2022.

Nadal won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June for his 14th title there, then made it to the Wimbledon semifinals in July before the abdominal issue forced him to withdraw (which does not go into the books as a loss).

The match against Fognini, who beat him at the 2015 U.S. Open, did not begin auspiciously for Nadal. His shots were off and he quickly fell behind.

“For more than one hour and a half, I was not competing,” Nadal said. “One of the worst starts, probably, ever.”

The second set was hardly a thing of beauty for either man, filled with poor play by both: They combined for 39 unforced errors and merely nine winners, seven service breaks and only three holds.

“I was lucky, honestly, that Fabio made some mistakes in that second set,” Nadal acknowledged.

When Nadal dumped a backhand into the net, Fognini broke to lead 3-2, then went ahead 4-2. But from there, it was Fognini who faltered, missing four shots in a row to get broken at love as part of a four-game run by Nadal to make it a set apiece.

“With Nadal, you can’t mess around,” Fognini said. “I let him back in the match and he kept getting better from there.”

In the third, Nadal came up with one particularly perfect shot – a forehand on the run that redirected an overhead by Fognini and sent it down the line for a winner to break for 4-2. Nadal’s momentum carried him right to the edge of the stands, where thousands were on their feet, and he punched the air and yelled, “Vamos!”

Not long after, that set belong to Nadal, too, and he would collect 16 of the last 19 games.

Nakashima takes first ATP Tour title at San Diego

San Diego Open - Finals
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SAN DIEGO – Brandon Nakashima earned his first ATP Tour victory in his hometown, beating friend and fellow Southern Californian Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the San Diego Open final.

“It’s super-special, something you dream of, but to have it happen in my hometown with all my friends and family here, it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Nakashima, who had two previous finals appearances. “I hope there are many more moments like this to come.”

Nakashima, a 21-year-old who grew up in San Diego and trained extensively at the event’s site as a junior, clinched the opening set in only 30 minutes. The second set, filled with lengthy rallies, took nearly an hour.

Giron, the No. 5 seed and former NCAA title winner from UCLA, wasn’t able to fend off Nakashima’s persistent ground strokes and well-placed serves. Nakashima had eight aces, six in the first set.

Serving at 5-4 in the second set, Nakashima tallied the match’s deciding two points when Giron pushed an easy volley into the net, followed by Nakashima’s second-serve ace.

He earned $93,090, about half of what received for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open in early September.

Nakashima, who was ranked No. 69 on the ATP Tour, moved up to 48, his highest ranking in nearly three years on tour. Despite the loss, Giron moved up to 53 from 58.

Not only was the singles title claimed by an American, the doubles title also taken by an American duo as the second-seeded pair of Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow defeated Australians Jason Kubler and Luke Saville 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The $612,00 event was held at Barnes Tennis Center, which next hosts the $757,900 WTA 500 San Diego Open, Oct. 8-16. That will feature 16 of the world’s top-ranked 20 women pros, led by No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”