Rafael Nadal defeats Fabio Fognini in US Open first round

Rafael Nadal overcomes Fabio Fognini in four sets in US Open second round

Rafael Nadal in action during warm up session at the US Open tennis tournament in New York August 20, 2012.

Photo: Reuters

Rafael Nadal in action during warm up session…

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On Sunday, Rafa Nadal defeated Fabio Fognini in a dramatic four-setter at the US Open. The Spaniard became the first man in the Open era to defeat his compatriot in the second round since Rod Laver in 1968. And it was Fognini, whose streak of reaching the men’s singles semifinals and finals was ended by the No. 5 seed, who had the better of the first set.

Nadal was on a roll at the beginning of the match, winning all four games in the first set as Fognini seemed to be finding his rhythm. But after winning the first game, Fognini was unable to convert the second into a tiebreak, a decision Nadal appeared sure to make to turn the match around.

A first set tiebreak turned out to be not such a good idea after Nadal served out the match. And Fognini was a victim of Nadal’s ability to dictate play and move the ball around the court to make it difficult for opponents to get on top of him. One moment in the first set, when Fognini tried his luck on the backhand, seemed to spark the Spaniard’s forehand and the rest of the match. But the Spaniard would not be denied.

Fognini had only to win the next two points to become the first player ever to lose in both sets and semifinals at an appearance at the US Open, and with the loss he went from being the longest-reigning semifinalist on the men’s tour since Stan Smith in 1965 to the first to lose multiple sets at the same Grand Slam since John McEnroe in 1975. The only other man to have done so was Jimmy Connors, who fell to Boris Becker in the 1996 US Open semifinals.

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