Rafael Nadal drops first set but rallies to defeat Rinky Hijikata at US Open final
Rafael Nadal advanced back into the final four of the US Open on Thursday with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Japanese qualifier Rinky Hijikata in the match that was held to serve as the semi-finals, with match points being awarded to both players after Hijikata forced three tie-breaks on his way to the victory.
Nadal, who has lost the last two matches at Flushing Meadows, was looking to become the first man since Stebe to reach four Grand Slam tournament finals in a single season.
And having done so, the 31-year-old Spaniard was delighted to have made it to the final even if it did come against the tough challenge of Hijikata, who has never lost in his previous four meetings with Nadal, winning three, including a straight-sets win in their first encounter in the 2013 final.
He said after the match: “It was the opposite of what I thought. He’s a good player but I thought I could win. I need to be mentally stronger, I needed to serve better, and I was playing better tennis.
“I hope I can give him an example or two but I don’t think I can beat him.
“He was the better player and he beat me. But I don’t want to take my foot off the gas. If I see my serve is not working, I need to change. So I was serving better, and I was hitting more winners, and I was better.
“I am very happy to be here with my brother.”
Nadal has not lost in this year’s entire tournament despite losing the opening set against his countryman, his only two losses at Flushing Meadows coming in the final of the 2013 quarterfinals.
He led from the opening set by two and never looked in danger of losing that battle as Hijikata failed to stay with the set.
However the Japanese was forced to come up to him at 5-3 in the tiebreak and Nadal could not find the