NEW YORK (AP) — After his U.S. Open title defense was cut short last year because of injury, perhaps an easy first week was exactly what Rafael Nadal needed.
On the other hand, it could leave him underprepared for the tougher times ahead.
“You never know what’s better or worse, no?” Nadal said.
He was back on the court Saturday for the first time in five days, beating Hyeon Chung 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the fourth round for his 13th straight Grand Slam tournament. Nadal hadn’t played since Tuesday, when he beat John Millman in straight sets in the opening round.
Nadal was forced to retire from his match against Juan Martin del Potro in last year’s U.S. Open semifinals because of knee pain that has been an issue for the 33-year-old Spaniard on hard courts. He had to pull out again before a semifinal match against Roger Federer earlier this year in Indian Wells that then kept him out of Miami.
But he won a hard-court title in Montreal earlier this month and said he felt healthy coming into this tournament. He then got an unscheduled night off Thursday when Thanasi Kokkinakis had to pull out with a shoulder injury, and will have spent only slightly more than four hours on court through the first eight days of the tournament.
“But for me personally, in some way, I will prefer to play the match,” Nadal said. “In some way is true that you save energy. So you never know what’s the best thing.”
Bianca Andreescu wasn’t surprised, no matter how staggering the streak sounded.
She hasn’t lost a singles match on tour in five months, and she was asked if it seemed that long.
“I mean, yeah. Facts are facts, right,” she said with a smile.
The No. 15 seed from Canada remained unbeaten since March by beating No. 19 Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open, continuing her best performance in a Grand Slam tournament. She will play American Taylor Townsend for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Though the streak encompasses nearly half a year, it hasn’t been that many matches.
The 19-year-old Andreescu lost in the fourth round in Miami, when she was forced to retire in the second set of her match against Anett Kontaveit with a right shoulder injury. That kept her out until the French Open in May, when she came back to win her opener before having to withdraw from the tournament with the same injury.
She missed the entire grass season before returning to win the title earlier this month in Toronto when Serena Williams was forced to retire in the final with a back injury.
Andreescu, who won her first career title this year at Indian Wells, said she is being more cautious with her scheduling after her injuries.
“When you feel pain, then there has to be a change,” she said. “I think I’m recovering way better than I ever have.”
Kristie Ahn’s tennis odyssey has made her the comeback story of the U.S. Open, with an 11-year gap between appearances in the main draw and an unlikely run to the tournament’s fourth round.
But she explained after her 6-3, 7-5 victory Saturday over former French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko how it almost didn’t happen. How her parents had pushed her to finally give up her struggles as a journeyman touring pro and put her college degree to use in a real job in the corporate world — and how she refused to do any of it.
“I’ve heard so many people regret not striving for their dreams,” Ahn said in her on-court interview.
Ahn, a 27-year-old American ranked 141st, first qualified for the Open in 2008 at age 16 but didn’t collect her prize money so she could play at Stanford, where she helped the Cardinal win the 2013 championship.
Her parents agreed to support her tennis afterward, with the understanding she’d stop by the end of 2017 to pursue another career if she hadn’t made it in tennis by then. Ahn refused and kept playing. Although she failed to qualify at Flushing Meadows the last three years, she finally made it back into the main draw this year by earning enough points in tour events to win the U.S. Open wild card challenge.
Now Ahn is in the round of 16, which comes with a $280,000 paycheck. And it could be more. Her tennis journey continues Monday against when she faces No. 25 Elise Mertens for a spot in the quarterfinal.
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