A sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky. And not a negative word from Rafael Nadal. He was happy to get through his first-round U.S. Open match in straight sets against 107th ranked Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan. “Very, very positive” about his recovery from a wrist injury that caused him to withdraw from the French Open and skip Wimbledon. Thrilled that he had chosen to play this month’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics in spite of limited practice time.
Monday’s score was 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. Nadal called his workday “normal. Not very good. Not very bad.”
There was similar news for Croatia’s Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. champ; Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic; No. 9 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and his French countryman, No. 10 Gael Monfils, each a winner in straight sets. The only notable upset was 21-year-old Briton Kyle Edmund’s 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 victory over French veteran Richard Gasquet, three times a major-tournament semifinalist who was seeded 13th.
Edmund, playing in his ninth Slam event and first U.S. Open, judged that there were “a lot of good things, lots of positives” about his match. “There are definitely days when they are not like that so, you know, that’s why you put the work in. But you’re playing a good player. You’re got nothing to lose. Just go out there and play.”
For Nadal, whose 14 career major-tournament titles put his second only to Roger Federer’s 17 — including the 2010 and 2013 U.S. crowns — hardly was in the same situation as Edmund. Then again, having been twice forced out of the Open by injury, in 2012 and 2014, what was not to like about yesterday?
Nadal said his serve worked well “almost all the time” and “I am hitting very well the backhand, but it’s true that the forehand, I need time. I need confidence and I need to keep practicing the forehard.”
But he found all that thoroughly acceptable after having missed 10 weeks of competition. He considered that, under the circumstances — with wrist pain lingering during the Olympics — it was acceptable to have lost Rio’s semifinal match to Juan Martin del Potro and bronze-medal match to Kei Nishikori.
He had not hit a forehand until one week before Rio, he said. Then, “You try to change the movement to avoid a little bit of pain,” he said of his play in the Games, “so I need to find again the normal movement. But I am on the way.”