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U.S. Open: Nadal, Fabbiano advance, Tsitsipas, Thiem shock exit in first round

Rafa Nadal denied John Millman any chance of posting another fairytale run in New York as he cruised by the Australian 6-3 6-2 6-2 in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Three-times champion Rafa Nadal denied John Millman any chance of posting another fairytale run in New York as he cruised by the Australian 6-3 6-2 6-2 in the first round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday.

Millman delivered the upset of the tournament last year when he beat five-times winner Roger Federer in a surprising run to the quarter-finals but he was unable to recreate the same magic against the relentless Spanish second seed.

Nadal said he came on court with a “lot of respect” for Millman.

“He showed last year what he is able to do when he is playing well,” he said.

“Always at the beginning (of a tournament) the first match everything is a little bit new, even if I have played here plenty of times. The beginnings are not easy.

“To be the first match honestly I think I played a good match, hitting good backhands, some more mistakes maybe with the forehand than usual but generally happy with how I started.”

Nadal, who last year retired from his semi-final with a knee injury after several gruelling matches, was a model of efficiency in his opening match of the year’s final Grand Slam.

The 33-year-old Spaniard, who snacked on some dates that were on a plate beside his courtside chair, seemed to get better as the match went on and made quick work of Millman in the final set where he went up an early double break for a 3-0 lead.

The only thing to rattle Nadal under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium came when he was getting ready to serve at 5-3 in the first set and the chair umpire issued a time violation that the Spaniard took issue with.

But Nadal, who denied that he was not ready to serve on time, did not let the incident knock him off course as he went on to close out the set in the ensuing game.

Nadal faced only three break points and easily turned aside each one. The first was in the opening game of the match, with Millman’s other two chances to break coming in the final game of the second set.

By contrast, Nadal converted five of his 15 break point chances against Millman, who did not have the weaponry or pace to keep up with the 18-times Grand Slam champion.

Serving for the win at 5-2, Nadal sealed the deal on his second match point with a sizzling forehand down the line that left Millman no chance.

Up next for Nadal will be Australian wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Pospisil stuns Khachanov with first win of season

Vasek Pospisil picked the ideal time to secure his first win of the season as the Canadian upset Russian ninth seed Karen Khachanov 4-6 7-5 7-5 4-6 6-3 on Tuesday to reach the second round of the U.S. Open.

Pospisil, who has fallen to 216th in the world rankings after having back surgery in January that sidelined him until Wimbledon, fired 15 aces and broke Khachanov four times during the near four-hour encounter.

The 29-year-old Canadian, who is in the main draw with a protected ranking, said he entered the match with a plan to be aggressive against Khachanov.

“Obviously Karen hits a really big ball. When he has time on the stroke, he’s extremely dangerous,” said Pospisil, whose previous win on the ATP Tour came last October.

“I just tried to really go for my forehand and tried to serve well, which I did for the most part. It was a physical match there at the end. I’m just glad I pulled through.”

The former world No. 25 converted four of his six break point chances while Khachanov could take advantage of only three of his 12.

Pospisil, who has never advanced past the second round in New York, will next face unseeded Tennys Sandgren after the American beat Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier on Tuesday.

Fabulous Fabbiano stuns Thiem

Dominic Thiem’s latest bid for Grand Slam glory came to an abrupt end at the U.S. Open on Tuesday when he fell to unseeded Thomas Fabbiano 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2 in a shock first-round exit, the biggest upset of the men’s competition so far.

The fourth-seeded Austrian’s blistering serve yielded 14 aces but it was not enough to overcome the 30-year-old Fabbiano, whose fearsome forehand helped him save nine out of the 10 break points he faced.

The 25-year-old Thiem did himself no favours, committing 48 unforced errors during the match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, 28 more than his Italian opponent.

“I beat a top-10 guy in Wimbledon and another one here,” said Fabbiano, who upset world number eight Stefanos Tsitsipas in their first-round meeting at the All England Club in July.

“I’m starting to like to play these big matches and my game is coming better and better.”

Thiem said he was fatigued after the second set and that he was “far away from 100%.

“Congratulations to (Fabbiano) and I’m happy for him. But it was not the real me there on the court,” Thiem said. “But I don’t know how much his performance is worth because (it) was not against the real me.”

For Thiem, who toppled Roger Federer earlier this year in the final at Indian Wells, the loss marks the latest frustration in his bid to claim a Grand Slam title.

Thiem was beaten by the King of Clay, Rafa Nadal in the 2018 and 2019 French Open finals, as well as in their quarter-final match at last year’s U.S. Open.

Rublev sends Tsitsipas packing

Russian Andrey Rublev used a steady stream of power from the baseline to upset eighth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(7) 7-5 on Tuesday and reach the second round of the U.S. Open. World number 43 Rublev, who two weeks ago earned the biggest win of his career when he beat Roger Federer in the third round at Cincinnati, attacked Tsitsipas with a barrage of all-in forehands and broke his opponent five times in the match.

Kyrgios downs Johnson

Nick Kyrgios delivered heaps of brilliant shotmaking and a sprinkle of controversy in a 6-3 7-6(1) 6-4 win over American Steve Johnson on Tuesday that put the Australian into the second round of the U.S. Open.

Kyrgios was laser focused for the first half of the match as he deployed a lethal mix of monster serves, stinging forehands and smart net play but nearly unravelled when he got agitated over a fan who interrupted his ball toss.

The Australian 28th seed was serving at 4-4 in the second set when a woman trying to get to her seat entered his line of sight during his serve, at which point an annoyed Kyrgios asked aloud if she was alright.

Kyrgios then looked to the chair umpire who said he could not have prevented the interruption because he did not see it since he was focused on the players.

But a clearly perturbed Kyrgios was not happy with that explanation and following a verbal exchange was given a code violation warning for an audible obscenity.

Kyrgios, who has repeatedly gotten in trouble for on-court actions and is known for his short temper, did not let the incident affect his sublime play as he settled right back down to business.

The Australian blitzed Johnson in the second set tiebreak where he showed his lighter side when he broke into a little dance after chasing down a dropshot he sent back for a brilliant crosscourt winner and a commanding 6-0 cushion.

Johnson, who was being thoroughly outplayed, did manage to finally earn his first break to get to within 3-1 in the third set but Kyrgios relied on his massive serve to carry him over the finish line.

Up next for Kyrgios will be Frenchman Antoine Hoang, who beat Argentine Leonardo Mayer earlier on Tuesday.

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