Everyone wanted to watch Rafael Nadal play in Washington, his competitive spirit is amazing: Paul Annacone

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal
Rudra Biswas

Rafael Nadal's US Open preparations got off to a poor start as he was bundled out of the 2021 Citi Open by South Africa's Lloyd Harris in the third round. The Spaniard was playing his first tournament since losing to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals at Roland Garros.

Nadal is currently dealing with a foot injury that forced him to pull out of Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics. The Spaniard's movement looked compromised during his campaign in Washington, drastically reducing his chances of defending his Canada Masters title this week.

But according to renowned coach and analyst Paul Annacone, Nadal's stint in Washington had some benefits. Annacone said the Spaniard's presence in the city lifted the mood of the public, who turned up in droves to watch Nadal even during practice sessions.

The American added that participating at the ATP 500 event gave Nadal an opportunity to explore Washington and take in its beautiful sights.

"I think it's pretty simple, we saw the practice courts. They were packed, everyone wanted to watch him play," Paul Annacone told Tennis Channel. "He got to do a little bit of sightseeing, some of the great sights in Washington."

Annacone, who has coached the likes of Pete Sampras and Roger Federer in the past, asserted that Nadal played at a good level in his opener against Jack Sock despite his physical niggles.

"Rafa's competitive juices once again came to the surface, coming out on top in an amazing match against Jack Sock, where we weren't even sure if he was gonna compete the next day," Annacone said. "It was amazing to watch, his competitive spirit is amazing. Isn't it incredible to watch what he does?"

"You could tell that the crowd really appreciated him being there" - Eugenie Bouchard on Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal tracks down a ball at the 2021 Citi Open
Rafael Nadal tracks down a ball at the 2021 Citi Open

Eugenie Bouchard, who is currently ranked 133rd, also gave her thoughts on Rafael Nadal's appearance in Washington. The Canadian said the Spaniard left it all out on court against Sock, despite visibly struggling with his foot.

"In what is a smaller tournament for him, he's visibly injured and limping between points vs Jack Sock. But still, competing till the very end, even raised his level in that third set tiebreaker and that's why he's one of the greatest of all time," Bouchard said.

Bouchard also said the audience was delighted to see Nadal play in Washington for the first time ever.

"You could tell that the crowd really appreciated him being there, they were really getting into it in the matches," Bouchard said. "You know, it will take away some match play [from him], but a new experience in a new city as he said he'd never been there."

Edited by Arvind Sriram
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