Rafael Nadal's Emphatic 1st-Round Win at 2013 US Open Makes Him Clear Favorite

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Ryan Harrison of the United States during their first round men's singles match on Day One of the 2013 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 26, 2013 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Could Rafael Nadal have looked any better in his opening match of the 2013 US Open? In a word, no.

Well, to be fair, he could have mirrored Dave Chappelle's And-1 mixtape and jumped the net to hit a shot from his opponent's side of the court.

In all probability, Ryan Harrison would have been less upset about that than he was when Nadal chased down an overhead from Harrison to hit a forehand winner.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion looked downright dominant in his win over the American, winning in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Even in the first round of the men's singles draw, you don't often see matches as one-sided as this one was.

Although Novak Djokovic is the top seed and made the final of last year's US Open, it's hard not to consider Nadal the man to beat.

Following an opening-round exit to Steve Darcis at Wimbledon, it was speculated that Nadal's knee problems were rearing their ugly head again. Instead, the Spanish star just labeled it just a bad day at the office.

Without his physical superiority over an opponent, Nadal is not the same player. He's still one of the best, but he'd be without one of his biggest weapons.

His win over Harrison illustrated that he's not having any problems with his knees and can still run around the court as much as possible.

Of course, if Harrison hits that overhead to the left, Nadal is dead. However, Nadal guessed right and then had enough speed and lateral quickness to hit a shot that would break Harrison's spirit completely.

There aren't too many players who have the ability to get to a shot like that, let alone get there fast enough to set up for a forehand winner.

After that Wimbledon loss, Nadal took a bit of a break. He didn't play competitively for about a month and a half and returned at the Rogers Cup. He managed to win that and followed up with a win at the Western and Southern Financial Open.

His buildup to the US Open couldn't have been any better. He got enough success and preparation on the court, yet he was able to give his body enough of a rest.

It's not as if the first-round win alone is proof that Nadal is the clear favorite. You've got his play in Montreal and Cincinnati to go along with his start in Flushing Meadows.

The 27-year-old also has a fairly generous draw. A match with Roger Federer could happen in the quarterfinal. Although Federer might have one more run left in the tank, he lost to Nadal in Cincinnati and has dropped nine of their last 11 meetings.

Nadal shouldn't have any trouble getting to the quarterfinal, as John Isner, Gael Monfils and Nikolay Davydenko could be the toughest competition. None of those names sounds as if they have any chance to upset the No. 2 player in the world.

The biggest shame of Nadal's first-round win is that fans have likely already seen the best shot he'll hit all tournament.