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Nadal launches US Open bid, Swiatek, Raducanu head women’s draw

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Rafael Nadal prepares for the US Open with fitness concerns dogging the Spanish star./AFP
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Aug 31, 2022 - 07:12 AM

NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal opens his bid for a 23rd Grand Slam title at the US Open on Tuesday as world number one Iga Swiatek and defending champion Emma Raducanu headline the women’s draw.

After the searing emotion of Monday’s salute to Serena Williams, the Open was set to return to something like normal service as action on the court took center stage.

Nadal launches his latest Grand Slam title campaign in Tuesday’s night session, where he faces unheralded Australian Rinky Hijikata on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The second-seeded Spaniard is chasing a fifth victory in New York to go along with titles won in 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2019.

The 36-year-old has already won the Australian Open and French Open titles this season, but was forced to withdraw before his Wimbledon semi-final with an abdominal injury.

Since that curtailed Wimbledon campaign, Nadal has played just once — a first-up loss to Borna Coric in Cincinnati earlier this month.

That has inevitably led to questions about whether Nadal’s creaking body can stand up to the punishing demands of a two-week campaign at Flushing Meadows.

Nadal acknowledged those concerns in a pre-tournament press conference, revealing that he had deliberately held himself back in Cincinnati to protect his injury.

“I take it very easy in the Cincinnati, too, in the practices. The match, I try my best without putting all the effort there on the serve,” Nadal said.

“I hope to be ready for the action. That’s the only thing that I can say.”

Raducanu, Swiatek in action 

Injury concerns have also flared for Britain’s reigning champion Raducanu in the women’s draw.

The 19-year-old created a sensation last year when she emerged from qualifying to sweep to the title, the first qualifier ever to win a Grand Slam title.

However Raducanu has struggled to build on that success this season, suffering a trio of second round exits at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.

Raducanu, who faces French veteran Alize Cornet in Tuesday’s first round in a night match, was seen tearfully complaining about a problem with her right hand during practice last week but later brushed off the incident, insisting she was ready to defend her title.

“It’s just one of those weird days where you feel a bit like nothing… I don’t know. You just feel a bit out of it,” she said.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, women’s world number one and top seed Swiatek faces Jasmine Paolini in her opening game.

The 21-year-old two-time French Open champion was invincible during the early part of the season, going on a remarkable 37-match winning streak that netted six titles in a row, including her second Roland Garros crown.

But she has never been further than the fourth round in three previous appearances at the US Open, and freely admits that New York is not her preferred environment.

“I wouldn’t choose it as a place to live because I’m more of a person that needs a calm place with the proper environment to rest,” Swiatek said on the eve of the tournament.

“New York is kind of always alive. That’s not for sure my place. But, you know, the tournament is great. It’s a totally different atmosphere than any other tournament.”

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