Rafael Nadal's slow starts put him behind a set in each of his previous two matches at the 2017 U.S. Open. He had no such issue Monday against Alexandr Dolgopolov in the round of 16.
The top-seeded Spaniard easily dispatched Dolgopolov, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1, to reach the quarters at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2013. Nadal faced just two break points the entire match and only needed over an hour-and-a-half to beat the Ukraine native.
Nadal dropped 12 service points across the entire match and was in near-peak form throughout. He double-faulted just twice and breezed through the match with 11 unforced errors.
"I think I played a solid match," Nadal said after the match, per Piers Newbery of BBC Sport. "Usually I play with not many mistakes. He can play amazing shots but sometimes a little bit unpredictable, so I tried to remain focus on myself."
Nadal had not made it past the fourth round at the U.S. Open since his 2013 triumph. He missed the tournament due to injury in 2014 and exited in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, over the past two years. His return to the quarters continues a resurgent 2017 season in which he won his 10th French Open and reclaimed the world No. 1 ranking.
Nadal credited Carlos Moya, who joined his team earlier this year as a coach, for helping him return to form.
"Of course, he was a good help for all of us," Nadal said after the match, per George Bellshaw of Metro. It's great to have him on the team. He's more than a coach, he's one of the best friends I ever had on the tour. As a coach, he came with a lot of motivation, with good ideas and he's very, very positive all the time and working a lot on what we're doing."
Dolgopolov matched his best-ever result at a U.S. Open but was clearly overmatched Monday. He finished the match with 39 unforced errors and got fewer than 60 percent of his first serves in play. Once ranked as high as 13th in the world, Dolgopolov had not reached the fourth round of a major since 2011.
Nadal will move on to play Andrey Rublev, the 19-year-old Russian who has made a shocking run to the quarters. The two have never played against one another.