Thursday night (8:15pm Easterm; 1:15am UK on September 2) in New York, 4-time U.S. Open champion Rafael Nadal takes on veteran Italian Fabio Fognini, with a spot in the U.S. Open’s round of 16 at stake.
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Rafael Nadal vs Fabio Fognini preview and prediction
There’s precious little left to say about Rafael Nadal that’s not already been said. The 36-year-old Spaniard is among the small handful of greatest players ever to step on to a tennis court. He is the winner of 92 career singles titles, 22 grand slams, an hilarious 14 of which have come at the French Open. It can seem a bit silly to discuss Rafa’s ‘second most successful Slam’ but, for what it’s worth, that honor does belong to the U.S. Open.
Now, it is worth noting that, while Nadal has won two of the last three U.S. Opens in which he’s appeared, he’s been absent from the last two tournaments – during the COVID-shortened season of 2020, and last year, when a left foot injury forced his withdrawal 10 days before the start of the tournament.
It must be said that Rafa recovered spectacularly from the injury, with wins at both the Australian and French Opens, and a run to the semifinals at Wimbledon… from which he was forced to withdraw due to an abdominal tear. Between that early July withdrawal and the first round of this U.S. Open, Rafa, took to the court only once, two weeks ago at the Cincinnati Masters, in a round of 32 match, which he lost Borna Ćorić. He experienced another hiccup in his opening U.S. Open match, at Arthur Ashe Stadium, when Rafa – who is the second-favorite to win this tournament, at odds of between 3/1 and 4/1 (at Betfair) – dropped the first set to Australian Rinky Hijikata, before rallying for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.
Tonight, Nadal squares off, for the 18th time in his career against the current 60th-ranked player in the world, 35-year-old Italian Fabio Fognini. Of the 17 previous meetings between the tw, Rafa has, unsurprisingly, won 13, the most recent in the round of 16 of the 2021 Australian Open, in straight sets. For what it’s worth, these two have met once before at the U.S. Open, in 2015. In that match, Nadal took the first two sets, but Fognini rallied back spectacularly to win, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
In his three tuneups prior to the US Open, Fognini (a massive 400/1 shot with Betway to win this tournament) reached the round of 64 at the Canadian Open (after winning two qualifiers), the round of 32 at the Cincinnati Masters (after winning two qualifiers and his opening match), and the round of 32 at the Winston Salem open (after winning one match). And, in the opening round at Flushing Meadows, as he did against Nadal seven years ago, Fognini fell behind two-sets-to-none before rallying for a miraculous 1-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 victory.
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