Rafa Nadal overcame a horrid start and a bloody nose to beat Fabio Fognini 2-6 6-4 6-2 6-1 and reach the third round of the U.S Open on Thursday.
The veteran Italian came out flying to build a set and a 4-2 lead as Nadal struggled to find a rhythm, raising the possibility of an upset like the one Fognini memorably pulled off against the Spaniard at Arthur Ashe Stadium seven years ago.
Nadal steadied the ship and looked to be cruising to the finish line when, while leading 3-0 in the fourth set, he was struck on the nose by his racket when it hit the court and bounced back sharply.
That led to a medical time-out where the 22-time Grand Slam champion lay on his back with his eyes closed as a pink bandage was applied to stop the bleeding.
Nadal regrouped and with the backing of the partisan crowd sealed the win on Fognini’s 60th unforced error to end the ugly affair in which the players combined for 15 breaks of serve and 11 double faults.
“For more than one-and-a-half hours I was not competing, it was one of my worst starts ever,” Nadal said in an on-court interview.
“When this happens, hopefully not too often, you have to stay positive and stay patient. The match is long.”
Next up for Nadal is Richard Gasquet, who defeated Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic 6-2 6-4 4-6 6-4 earlier in the day.
Nadal is 18-0 lifetime against the Frenchman.