Rafael Nadal underlined his credentials as the heavy favourite for the title with a commanding performance against Ryan Harrison in the first round of the US Open. The Spaniard, with a chance to become the world No.1 this fortnight, was in ruthless form as he bulldozed his past the hapless American. Nadal needed two hours and 8 minutes to trounce Harrison 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 and reach the second round of the final Grand Slam event of the season.
The 21-year-old made a disastrous start, surrendering serve in the very first game. Nadal threatened to break again in the fifth game, but Harrison saved a breakpoint to remain within one break from his feisty opponent. But the margin was adequate for Nadal, who took the first set in 45 minutes.
In the second set, Nadal took both break points offered by his opponent to take complete control of the match. The rampant Spaniard lost just two points off his serve and broke in the third and seventh games to grab the contest by the scruff of its neck. The deflated American found the going even tougher in the third set.
Harrison gifted two breaks at the start of the third set to dig himself deeper into the trenches. At 3-0, Nadal offered the first break points off his formidable serve. But Harrison conceded five straight points from 0-40 to allow Nadal to hold serve and get within touching distance of the finish line.
Even though Harrison was saved the blushes when he held serve in the fifth and seventh games, he could not deny the Spaniard. Nadal took his second match point when he put away an easy winner off a tame service return to clinch his spot in the second round.
The mercurial Latvian, Ernests Gulbis joined Kei Nishikori on the sidelines after being bumped out by Andreas Haider Maurer. The Austrian clinched a sensational 3-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 victory. The 24-year-old has never been past the fourth round of the US Open – Gulbis’s talents have always gone to waste, with his best effort coming at the French Open in 2008 where he reached the quarter-finals that year.
Nikolay Davydenko also flirted with danger before coming through unscathed in five sets. The Russian won 6-3, 4-6, 1-6, 7-5, 6-0 to keep his hopes alive of challenging Nadal in the third round later this week. Both matches lasted well over three hours.
Aussie promise Bernard Tomic went even further, needing as many as four hours to get past clay court specialist Albert Ramos 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(1), 6-3 to stay afloat on an eventful first day at the US Open.