Rafael Nadal Beats Leonardo Mayer in 3rd Round of 2017 US Open After Rocky Start

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2017

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 02:  Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina during their third round Men's Singles match on Day Six of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 2, 2017 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Top-seeded Rafael Nadal overcame a slow start to defeat Leonardo Mayer 6-7 (7-3), 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, on Saturday in the third round of the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York.

With the win, Rafa advanced to the fourth round at the U.S. Open for the ninth time in his illustrious career, and he remains in the hunt for his third U.S. Open title.

Although Nadal entered the match with a 3-0 career record against Mayer, he needed three hours and 15 minutes to get past the Argentine in four sets.

Nadal dominated on serve throughout the match, winning 72 percent of his service points. He also recorded just 26 unforced errors in comparison to Mayer's 52.

With the win, Nadal will move on to face Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.

While Nadal settled in as Saturday's contest went on, he had issues with Mayer's big serve during the opening set.

The Spaniard had his opportunities to score some breaks, but he could not convert, and Mayer came up big in the tiebreak to win it 7-3.

ATP World Tour's Craig O'Shannessy pointed out some of the issues that plagued Rafa in the first set:

The second set started similarly with each player holding their first three serves.

Nadal was able to regain some momentum and get the crowd back into the match on his third serve, however, by winning this entertaining point, courtesy of the U.S. Open's official Twitter account:

That appeared to carry over to the ensuing game when Nadal finally broke Mayer on his 14th break point of the match to take a 4-3 lead in the set.

Rafa was off to the races from there and went on to close out the second set with a hold and his second break of Mayer's serve.

Nadal continued to roll in the third by breaking Mayer's first-service game, and his emotions were on full display:

Mayer was unable to offer much resistance in the third set, resulting in Nadal taking it 6-1 and moving closer to advancing.

The underdog already appeared somewhat defeated amid Nadal's comeback, but things got even worse for him in the first game of the fourth set.

With the game tied at 40-40, Nadal hit one of the most impressive winners of the tournament thus far:

Rafa went on to secure the break, and after breaking Mayer again to make it 5-2, he went back on serve with a chance to close it out.

Mayer courageously broke Nadal for the first time in the entire match, though, and consolidated with a hold to put the pressure back on the overwhelming favorite.

Nadal managed to come through in the clutch with a hold to finish off the match and avoid any further trouble.

Although the past two matches haven't been Nadal at his best since he needed four sets to advance in each, the title is there for the taking.

With several top players out due to injury or already eliminated, Nadal is the odds-on favorite moving toward the round of 16.

Nadal is 6-2 in his career against Dolgopolov, and he will look to make it three wins in a row over the Ukrainian when they meet in the fourth round.