By Richard Pagliaro
Rafael Nadal didn’t defend his US Open title, but watched the final and was impressed with what he saw.
Nadal, who has topped Dominic Thiem in successive Roland Garros finals, says the second-seeded Austrian was a worthy winner in New York.
Thiem joined legendary Hall of Famer Pancho Gonzales as just the second man in the 140-year history of the tournament to fight back from a two-set deficit and win the US Open final edging Alexander Zverev in the first fifth-set final tiebreaker in tournament history.
Nineteen-time Grand Slam champion Nadal said Thiem has paid his dues and deserves to be a Grand Slam champion.
“I’m happy for Dominic,” Nadal said. “If anyone deserves to win a great title, it’s him. He’s a big worker, very focused on his goals. He’s a good person. He really deserves it. I’m sorry about Sasha (Zverev).
“He was very close in the final, but somewhere I think Dominic was a little bit stronger throughout the tournament and after a lot of years of hard work he deserved to win the title. Sasha will have other opportunities in the future.”
Nine-time Rome champion Nadal will launch his return to tournament tennis in Rome with a tough opening-round test against compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta, who is fresh off his run to a second US Open semifinal. Nadal said his immediate goal is to gain match play and feel comfortable on court.
“I’m in a similar shape to usual, maybe a little less well, because I haven’t played a competitive match for six months,” Nadal said. “It’s obvious that to feel you’re 100 percent, you need to [play] matche.
“I’m here, I came here with a lot of time to try to do the right training. What I did. I have a complicated first round against Pablo who has just played well in New York. It’ll be a good test for me. I’m excited to get back to the competition, without having any high expectations right away. My first goal is to go out on the field and feel competitive again. Then we’ll see what other goals I can pursue.”
Photo credit: Internazionali BNL d’Italia Facebook