Rafael Nadal made a triumphant return to the US Open, although he said he feared he might never play the tournament again.
Nadal won the tournament in 2019 but that final, in which he beat Daniil Medvedev in a five-set thriller, was the last match he played there until this week.
He decided to skip the tournament in 2020 due to fears over the Covid pandemic and he was suffering with a foot injury in 2021.
However, he is back this year after another injury layoff and he was able to overcome a first-set scare to beat impressive Australian youngster Rinky Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.
The result maintained his perfect record at majors in 2022, but he was just happy to be back on Arthur Ashe again.
"It's been a long wait," Nadal said. "For some time I thought I may not be able to be back, so I am super happy. Night sessions are the best.
Rafael Nadal was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon ahead of his semi-final last month due to an abdominal tear.
He has only played one match since - a defeat to Borna Coric in Cincinnati - and so he was noticeably cautious during the match, particularly during his service motion.
That, though, is just a normal part of working your way back from an injury, he says.
"I just have to be humble and accept the process, day after day in practices and matches and stay positive," Nadal explained.
Rafael Nadal is chasing a record-extending 23rd major title at the US Open, and he will face Italian Fabio Fognini in round two on Thursday.
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