Rafael Nadal battled dehydration and stomach pains to cap off a return to the U.S. Open since 2013 with a win.
The Spaniard, who collected two of this 14 Grand Slam titles at Flushing Meadows, moved into the second round with a 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, -6-4 victory over 18-year-old Borna Corci of Croatia in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night.
“I am very happy to be back and move forward,” said Nadal during a short interview courtside at Arthur Ashe after the match.
The eight-seeded Nadal missed last year’s U.S. Open because of a right wrist injury after winning the tournament in 2010 and 2013.
Coric, ranked 33rd, is the youngest of the ATP’s top 50. He had won his only previous matchup against Nadal last year.
Following the match, Nadal, said he had to overcome the muggy night and felt dehydrated, and that’s why his level of play dropped for about a set.
“I started playing well, first set was a very high level,” he said in his on-court interview. “The conditions tonight (were) very humid. For me, I am sweating a lot. When (we have) those conditions, I suffer a little bit more.”
Nadal said he also had a bit of a stomach problem and wasn’t “physically perfect,” which is why he lost the third set, before feeling stronger in the fourth.
“I recovered (a) little bit. I played, again, more aggressive,” he added.
He said the victory was “very important” to getting back into the swing of things following a tough season.
“(I am) happy the way that I played when I was, you know, physically good,” he said.
Ahead of the start of the tournament, Nadal told Fox News Latino that he felt confident that his level of play was getting him closer to where he wanted to be for the next couple of weeks.
“I’m trying my best in very single tournament and in very single practice,” he said. “I think I am in the right (place) to play at the level that I want to play.”