Spain’s Rafael Nadal, world number one, and Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, third in the ranking, advanced Friday to the round of 16 of the U.S. Open with laborious matches.
Nadal recovered after giving up the first set to defeat Russian Karen Khachanov by 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (9-7) and 7-6 (7-3). The Spanish played much of the game with his right knee bandaged and received medical assistance at the end of the first set.
Khachanov, twenty-seventh favorite, kept the pressure on Nadal during the four hours and 23 minutes of play, the longest game the Spanish have played in Flushing Meadows.
“I am very happy to pass in a very difficult situation,” said Nadal in an interview from the track. “There were tough times during the game, he played aggressively. There are things to work on for the next round, but the good thing is that I have the chance to improve,” he added.
Later, Del Potro got his place in the next round with a victory in three sets by 7-5, 7-6 (8-6) and 6-3 over the Spanish Fernando Verdasco, thirty-first head of series, in a match of almost three hours.
The tenacious Verdasco sometimes made it difficult for Del Potro with his left-footed shots and a dozen “aces”. In the second set, the Argentine lost concentration after an assistant shouted out a ball when he had a chance to break, but gradually returned to his game to seal the victory.
“I was solid today, I missed a little, I got a pretty good result at key moments of the game,” said Del Potro after the match, who will face Croatian Borna Coric in the next round.
Meanwhile, Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili defeated Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-3, 6-4, 1-6 and 7-6 and will now face Nadal.
On the other hand, the Austrian Dominic Thiem connected 18 “aces” to recover after losing the first set and defeating the local Taylor Fritz by 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 and 6-4. In the next round, they will meet South African Kevin Anderson, who beat Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6 and 6-4.
“I’ve always lost in the Round of 16, so I think it’s time to advance to the quarter-finals,” Thiem said after making it to the top 16 in New York for the fourth time.