Goodbye, DC: Nadal bounced back by Harris, ranked 50th in Washington
The good news for Rafael Nadal was that his sore left foot felt much better on Thursday at the Citi Open. The bad news? His first appearance at the tournament ended after two difficult outings.
A day after needing three sets and over three hours to get by in the hard-field tune-up at the US Open, Nadal was knocked out 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 under the the limelight by Lloyd Harris, 50th South. Africa.
“I have to keep working,” Nadal said.
He is 20 times Grand Slam champion. Harris has only reached the third round of a major tournament once.
“All credit goes to him for playing aggressively,” said Nadal. “He played well. He was brave.
Harris, 24, is 6 feet 4 inches tall with big serves that have consistently exceeded 120 mph and produced 16 aces on Thursday.
“His service,” Nadal said, “was enormous.”
Nadal’s, of course, was not. It could be a sign of rust, which would be understandable considering the 35-year-old Spaniard hadn’t competed anywhere for almost two months – not even having recovered his racket for around three weeks after losing in the half -final against Novak Djokovic at the French Open.
Nadal skipped Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics and certainly never really played the best he could on his first trip to the US capital.
Thursday’s game ended when Nadal was shattered for the second time, with Harris dropping his racket in disbelief after delivering a lob winner to close proceedings.
“I played that last game very badly,” said Nadal, who was the seed. “My service was not functioning properly. “
It was less of a physical showdown between a pair of heavy hitters than Nadal’s win over 192nd-seeded Jack Sock on Wednesday, which was decided by a tie-breaker in the third set.
About 3.5 hours before returning to the main stadium to face Harris, Nadal made it to tiny Court 5 for a practice session.
As the fans shouted “Vamos, Rafa!” and took photos and videos with their phones from the stands of an adjacent pitch, Nadal didn’t run much. Instead, he mostly stayed put while hitting groundstrokes and then practicing volleys, serves and returns for 45 minutes with Emilio Gomez, a 29-year-old Ecuador ranked 165th and lost in the first round of the Citi Open.
Not at all taxing by Nadal’s usual demanding and grueling standards.
And against Harris, when points counted, it took Nadal a little while to get started. It wasn’t really until the second set that he appeared to participate, as did the fans, many of whom rose to salute when Nadal broke to lead 3-1 with a forehand winner.
But in the home stretch of the third set, it was Nadal, surprisingly, who faltered. He will now try to regroup before the US Open, which he missed last year during the pandemic but won the last time he entered, in 2019.
Harris, meanwhile, is chasing a debut ATP title, which would leave him 87 behind Nadal’s total.
“To be honest, in tennis, I did a lot of good things,” said Harris. “I think the best thing was to stay in the moment, to keep my cool.”
Next up for him is a match against 2015 Citi Open champion and 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori on Friday.
Other quarter-finals: Mackie McDonald v Denis Kudla in an all-American contest, No. 5 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy versus Steve Johnson of the United States and No. 11 John Millman of Australia versus Jenson Brooksby of the States -United
Sinner beat Sebastian Korda 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) in a clash between two youngsters seen as possible future stars of men’s tennis who also happen to be doubles partners this week.
Sinner, 19, reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros last year and the fourth round this year before losing each time to 13-time champion Nadal. Korda, 21, is only the third man in the past 50 years to reach the fourth round on his Roland Garros and Wimbledon debut.
They got to know each other on tour; Sinner said Korda texted him to double enlist. After clashing in a windy 90 degree afternoon, they reached the doubles semi-finals on the night, beating Nick Kyrgios and Frances Tiafoe.
Brooksby, 20, defeated No. 2 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-4.
“He’s going to be dangerous in the future,” Auger-Aliassime, Wimbledon quarter-finalist said last month.
For Nadal, the last two months have not been easy.
“I had a lot of problems with my foot. I couldn’t train every day that I really wanted to, but I did as much as I could, ”he said. “And I tried hard here, right? “