Rafael Nadal continued to cruise at the 2016 U.S. Open, defeating Andreas Seppi in the second round by a score of 6-0, 7-5, 6-1.
It was a quick start and a strong finish for the Spanish star, who had some problems with his serve but was deadly receiving the ball. He only landed 56 percent of his first serves in play and faced plenty of close games throughout the match, but he countered with eight breaks and an impressive 57 percent receiving points won.
There was also history in the match as slight rain forced a roof closure:
SI Tennis @SI_Tennis
The Arthur Ashe Stadium roof is closing for the first time ever during the second set of Nadal-Seppi. #USOpen2016-9-1 02:43:12
The brand-new retractable roof closed in under seven minutes, providing the players with a rare indoor match at the U.S. Open. Nadal was also the first person to practice under the new roof, per ESPN Tennis.
He explained his thoughts on the historic occasion after the match, per Kelyn Soong of the Washington Post:
Kelyn Soong @KelynSoong
Nadal: "Very happy to be first player to play in this competition with the roof closed." #USOpen2016-9-1 03:49:57
After a pair of straight-set wins, he could continue to make history as the tournament continues.
The first set was about as good as it gets for Nadal, who served Seppi with a bagel to kick off the match.
Defense was the key for the No. 4 seed, who was able to get to just about everything. This includes an impressive shot on set point:
US Open Tennis @usopen
Some fancy racket skills from @RafaelNadal earns him a first set bagel vs. Andreas #Seppi. #usopen @chase https://t.co/7qtP098vR12016-9-1 02:09:05
Nadal earned three breaks on six chances and won a total of 20 out of 33 receiving points in the opening set.
Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine was already discussing the player's chances of contending before the first set even ended:
Full Dissident @hbryant42
Rafa rolling Seppi 5-0, and while Murray right now looks to be the class of the field, things are getting interesting.2016-9-1 01:59:19
It took eight games for Seppi to win his first game of the night, which the fans enjoyed, per Sara Orchard of BBC Sport:
Sara Orchard @Sara_Orchard
Big round of applause for Seppi who wins his first game against Nadal- after 55mins. Nadal leads 6-0, 1-1 #USOpen2016-9-1 02:24:10
The Italian kept it competitive in the second set and was even at 3-3 before the brand-new roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium was closed for the first time due to inclement weather.
Seppi stayed competitive after the short intermission and got to 5-5 before a Nadal break helped him regain control.
Joe Fleming of USA Today provided a recap of the back-and-forth set:
Joe Fleming @ByJoeFleming
Nadal a bit sloppy in set 2, broken twice, including when he served for it, but he is in control vs. Seppi 6-0, 7-5 https://t.co/ABtrNcgUXA2016-9-1 03:16:42
Nadal looked sharp once again in the third set, finally getting his serve on track. He won 12 of 14 points on his first serve and took control by going 2-of-2 on break chances.
If he can perform like this with his serve while the rest of his game remains strong, he could be a real threat once again in New York.
The Spanish player was a big question mark heading into the week after a wrist injury sidelined him for a good portion of the season. Even after a seemingly easy win over Denis Istomin in Round 1, he remained concerned about his health.
"Not easy to go 2.5 months out of competition, in the middle of the season, without hitting a forehand," Nadal said Tuesday, per Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press. "I need to have the confidence again with my wrist."
He certainly appears to be playing well through his first two matches, although the real test will be to remain strong as the competition gets tougher.
Andrey Kuznetsov looms in the third round after the Russian upset No. 31 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in three sets. If he is able to advance beyond that, the next match is guaranteed to be against a seeded player, as Roberto Bautista Agut takes on Lucas Pouille.
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