Rafael Nadal's summer resurgence continued on Friday, as he defeated Andrey Kuznetsov, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in the third round at the 2016 U.S. Open.
After missing two months due to a wrist injury, Nadal returned early at the Olympics and reached the semifinals before losing to Juan Martin del Potro. He did have a stumble against Borna Coric at the Western & Southern Open, but has otherwise looked close to his usually great self.
Tennis coach Nick Bollettieri was very impressed by the diverse skill set Nadal displayed throughout his win Friday night:
Nadal still has a long way to go before he can even think about winning the U.S. Open, but the results so far have been promising with three consecutive straight-set wins.
It was apparent throughout the first set that Nadal would have little trouble advancing. He needed just 29 minutes and only dropped one game. Kuznetsov really hurt himself with 12 unforced errors, though Nadal was serving well with 16 of his 22 first serves landing in.
U.S. Open Tennis provided the highlight of Nadal's winning point to close out the first set:
The second set was more of a challenge for Nadal. His serve began to fail him with five double-faults, and his first-serve percentage dropped to 50, but he was able to get away with it because Kuznetsov failed to capitalize.
Kuznetsov nearly matched Nadal in double-faults with four, and he continued to play sloppy overall with 15 more unforced errors. He was able to make things interesting, winning four games by going 6-of-9 in net points and winning two of four break points.
Eventually Nadal was able to correct himself, ending the set with this terrific forehand after taking an advantage following going up 5-4, via U.S. Open Tennis:
After dropping the first game in the third set, Nadal decided to stop wasting more time. He won the next five games, leaving Kuznetsov to ponder the metaphorical burst of wind that knocked him over and leaving the No. 4 seed one game away from taking the match.
The final point of the match was a sight to behold. It took just nine shots, but featured Kuznetsov nearly eating an ace and Nadal running up to the net and near the service line for a between-the-legs shot before he was finally able to put Kuznetsov away.
The win puts Nadal in the tournament's second week for the first time in three years, per U.S. Open Tennis.
Nadal will be hoping for more karma heading into next week because the last time he won the U.S. Open was three years ago when he defeated Novak Djokovic in four sets.
There are still areas of Nadal's game that needs to be cleaned up. He can't expect to compete with top competition by hitting one ace and six double-faults, but his speed is helping him get to shots a lot of players can't even dream of getting at.
The name of the game at this point is advance at all costs. Nadal played that to perfection on Friday and is looking more like his old self.