The big story on Tuesday at the US Open was the return of Rafael Nadal. The 22-time Grand Slam champion returned to the US Open Tuesday night for the first time since his 2019 title which was his fourth in New York.
Nadal, though, wasn’t welcomed backed too kindly. The little-known Rinky Hijikata made the most of his Grand Slam debut and his appearance under the lights on Ashe pushing Nadal like few expected in a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 tussle in 3 hours, 8 minutes.
Hijikata, who is from Australia but played collegiately at North Carolina, show little nerves and outdueled Nadal with stealing the opening set. Nadal was sluggish while the 21-year-old from Sydney was flying around the court.
Nadal would assert control and grab the next two sets but down the stretch the youngster rose up again matching Nadal off the ground.
Rafa’s win moves his to 20-0 on the season in Slams and he remains undefeated in the first round at the US Open at 16-0.
“It’s been a long wait,” said Nadal. “For some time, I thought maybe I wouldn’t be able to come back. But here I am. I’m super happy. The night sessions here in New York are the best without a doubt.”
Nadal will now meet former nemesis Fabio Fognini. The Italian came from two sets down for the ninth time to upend Aslan Karatsev in five sets. Fognini, who trails Nadal 13-4, beat Rafa in 2015 from two sets down.
Earlier, Nadal heir-apparent won a shot-making showcase over Sebastian Baez who retired with cramps down 7-5, 7-5, 2-0.
Five sets were theme on the day. Fognini’s highly-touted countryman Jannik Sinner went the distance to deny the upset bid by Daniel Altmaier 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.
David Goffin blew multiple chances to serve it out in the fifth and fell in a final set breaker to Lorenzo Musetti 11-9 in the breaker.
Borna Coric, Denis Shapovalov and even Andrey Rublev had to win five set matches to stay alive.
American ace machine John Isner cracked 19 in an easy win over Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis. Jenson Brooksby, Frances Tiafoe, Brandon Nakashima and Chris Eubanks were also winners for the home fans.
Sam Querrey finished his career going down to Ilya Ivashka in four sets.
Marin Cilic, Holger Rune and Hubert Hurkacz also advanced.
Tomorrow, top seed Daniil Medvedev returns in the evening. In the day, Andy Murray opens play against American wildcard Emilio Nava.
Felix Auger-Aliassime, Nick Kyrgios and Karen Khachanov are also in action. Tommy Paul battles Sebastian Korda as well.
WEDNESDAY US OPEN SCHEDULE
Arthur Ashe Stadium, Day Session – 12:00 PM Start
Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Emilio Nava (USA) (WC)
Elena Gabriela Ruse (ROU) vs. Coco Gauff (USA) 
7:00 PM Start
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Anett Kontaveit (EST) 
Daniil Medvedev (RUS)  vs. Arthur Rinderknech (FRA)
Louis Armstrong Stadium, Day Session – 11:00 AM Start
Xiyu Wang (CHN) vs. Maria Sakkari (GRE) 
Madison Keys (USA)  vs. Camila Giorgi (ITA)
Nick Kyrgios (AUS)  vs. Benjamin Bonzi (FRA)
7:00 PM Start
Jack Draper (GBR) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 
Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA)  vs. Bianca Andreescu (CAN)
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