Rafael Nadal drops first set but rallies to defeat Rinky Hijikata at US Open
Posted: Saturday, June 14, 2014
By Dan Whitcomb
LAS VEGAS – Rafael Nadal had no trouble breaking Roger Federer’s streak of 17 successive Grand Slam finals on Saturday night at the US Open, eliminating him in the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory.
However, the first set against Hijikata only lasted three hours and 15 minutes, and the Spaniard is now looking to extend his unbeaten run to five consecutive Grand Slam finals, which also ties a world record set in 1998 by Pete Sampras.
A final at that level is a foregone conclusion for the 24-year-old Swiss, who lost to Federer in two sets in the last Grand Slam of the year at the final encounter between the two before their rivalry exploded.
Nevertheless, Nadal showed the improvement from a year ago, winning his first match since March. His form is even more impressive when you consider that he has yet to play since his victory over Federer.
The two-time major champion had never dropped a set at a Grand Slam. However, Hijikata began to impose his will on him in the second set and the top seed had a match point with a break in the tiebreaker.
This would be followed by three successive deuces to give Hijikata a set, although it was not enough to overcome the Spaniard.
The world number one had never lost to a Japanese player before, and he took advantage of it to post a scoreline he was satisfied with.
Nadal ended the match with a straight-sets victory to lift his ATP World Tour Masters Series (WTS) No. 1 ranking for the third time.
The top seed is now on his way to three consecutive Wimbledon finals and a record-breaking