Rafael Nadal has overcome a freak, self-inflicted facial injury to book his place in the third round of the US Open courtesy of a four-set win over Fabio Fognini.
Nadal's quest for a 23rd grand slam title remains alive after he overcame a slow start and some late drama to seal a 2-6 6-4 6-2 6-1 victory over the Italian in two hours and 42 minutes.
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The 36-year-old lost the opening set and trailed 4-2 in the second frame before responding in trademark fashion, winning 16 of the next 19 games, to set up a third-round meeting against Richard Gasquet.
It was far from smooth sailing for the Spaniard, who went down late in the contest in the most unusual of circumstances.
Drama erupted with Nadal 3-0 up in the fourth set when the Spaniard stretched to return a shot from Fognini but then stopped mid-point, clutching at his face.
Fognini looked perplexed as Nadal walked towards him at the net, before explaining to the chair umpire that he had blood pouring from his nose.
The Spaniard lay motionless on his back at the side of the court, as concerned gasps could be heard across Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Replays soon showed that Nadal had accidentally hit himself in the nose with his own racquet after it bounced off the centre court.
In his desperate lunge to hit a backhand return, the 22-time grand slam champion's racquet hit the court and bounced up into his face as he was leaning down.
The anguish on the 36-year-old's face was obvious, with Nadal spinning away in pain as soon as the racquet came into contact with his nose.
Play stopped for several minutes as Nadal took a medical timeout to have the injury attended to by medical staff.
The bizarre incident sparked an outpouring of support for Nadal on social media, with fans wishing him a swift recovery.
That's gotta hurt Nadal 😭 looks painful
He's up. Come on Rafa.
— Avinash ⭐⭐ (@CFC_Avinash) September 2, 2022
Hope Nadal is ok. That looked like it hurt. Really bad. #USOpen
— Chuck (@PenleyPepC) September 2, 2022
Nadal just about knocked himself out with his own racket. Bleeding. Looked painful
— David Rocan (@SmokinOil) September 2, 2022
Ouch! Nadal plays himself some chin music. Talk about some follow through. pic.twitter.com/Eccp6TMitp
— MattyB (@MBHFLA) September 2, 2022
— Jamaal A. Bivens 🦁 (@Jambivalent1) September 2, 2022
— Jazz Tangcay (@jazzt) September 2, 2022
Rafa Nadal has bizarre incident where his racket hits him square in the nose after bouncing off ground @usopen
in 4th set.
hope he’s gonna be ok
— LetThereBePeaceOnEarth (@PJsports60) September 2, 2022
After having a bandage put on his nose, Nadal returned to court as normal service resumed.
The Spaniard did eventually go on to lose that game, but wouldn't drop another game as he improved his 2022 grand slam record to 21-0.
Rafael Nadal's quest for 23rd grand slam alive
Asked whether he’d ever had that happen before, Nadal mustered a chuckle and said: “With a golf club but not with a tennis racket.”
However, the World No.3 said despite some discomfort at first, the injury was nothing too serious.
“Well, just a little bit dizzy at the beginning,” Nadal responded to a question about the nose injury.
“A little bit painful.”
Nadal has won four of his 22 Grand Slam titles at the US Open, most recently in 2019 when he last entered the hard-court tournament.
With great rival Novak Djokovic unable to play in New York, Nadal will be hoping to capitalise by clinching his 23rd major title at Flushing Meadows.
The four-time US Open champion found himself in a spot of bother after losing the first frame with Fognini converting both of his two break points, before a wild second set that included seven breaks of serve.
Fognini appeared on course for a two-set lead at 4-2 but 23 unforced errors in the second set let him down with Nadal's pressure rising.
The Spaniard's game went up a level in the third, improving his first serve percentage to 75 per cent and only omitting five unforced errors.
Nadal carried that momentum through the fourth set where he broke Fognini in the second and sixth games, before serving it out.
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