Rafael Nadal needed three hours to make a winning return after nearly two months off with injury and defeat persistent Jack Sock 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(1) in his opening match at the ATP Washington event.

The late-evening struggle was a major test for Nadal, who had not played since Roland Garros in early June and had been healing a foot problem which kept him out of Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics.

The top seed making his career debut in the US capital had to come from 3-1 down in the final set against the American journeyman, aged 28, who has struggled for the past several seasons.

“It was a tough match and I managed to find a way at the end,.. sorry for Jack,” Nadal said. “The energy here in Washington has been unforgettable after such a tough year and a half.

“Getting to play in front of these great people is just fantastic. I enjoyed it, I suffered a little bit but it’s normal. I hope to be ready for tomorrow.”

Nadal’s return performance was ragged by his world-class standards, but he and Sock matched with 41 winners each at an event still on guard with COVID still not under control in the US.

“It felt fantastic, Of course for us playing without a crowd is the least important thing that we are facing in the last year and a half … a lot of people dying, a lot of people suffering,” Nadal said.

Still this fire is still there… At least we’re able to play with some crowd so that makes a difference for us and that gives us some positive vibes to keep going.”

During Sock’s prime, Nadal won all five of their matches between 2015 and 2017 before the American faded from the Top 100; Nadal next faces South African Lloyd Harris.


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