Rafael Nadal opens his US Open on Monday afternoon when he takes on Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin in the opening round in New York. The two-time winner (2010, 2013) is looking for his first slam title since the French Open in 2014 and his first on hard courts since the aforementioned 2013 event where he defeated Novak Djokovic in four sets in the final.
Outside of the French Open, the US Open had been the event that Nadal had thrived at this decade. Prior to his 2015 exit to Fabio Fognini, the Spaniard had 2 titles and a final in three times he competed – missing out in 2012 and 2014 due to injury. That loss would be his earliest in New York since 2005 and the first time he had failed to make the quarter finals since 2007.
Despite having nothing better than a third round at a slam on his record over the past 12 months, Nadal is a top 5 player and can leap into the top 3 if circumstances go his way. The draw is in his favour with Roberto Bautista Agut the biggest threat to him making the quarter finals on paper. He opens against an opponent he is 4-0 against in Istomin and one he has lost just one set to.
After his impressive Olympics, Nadal was brought crashing back down to earth by Borna Coric with a convincing defeat. He should bounce back against an opponent who has just a 6-19 main tour record in 2016 and had to drop down to Challenger level prior to the Olympics. It’s hard to pencil Nadal into the late stages of slams these days but given his draw, it would be a bigger shock than usual for him to lose early and especially to Istomin or the winner of the Andreas Seppi-Stephane Robert match in round two.
Prediction – Nadal in straight sets