In front of a packed stadium at Rock Creek Park, Rafael Nadal topped Jack Sock in three sets in his D.C. debut at the Citi Open on Wednesday night.
The match spanned just over three hours as Nadal, the world No. 3, won 6-2, 4-6, 7-6.
With the Citi Open at full capacity, the crowd brought energy that Nadal said he could feel on the court.
“The support of the city since I arrived here is one of the most that I ever had in my career, no?” Nadal said. “Yeah, super happy to visit Washington and to play here for the first time.”
Nadal cruised through the first set before Sock answered in the second, winning four of the final five games in the frame.
In the final set, Sock took a two-game lead early before Nadal surged back to win three in a row, taking a one game lead. The rivals traded games until the tiebreak, where Nadal only dropped one point en route to the win.
The Citi Open was Nadal’s first tournament since the French Open, where he incurred a foot injury. He said he felt the injury throughout the match and as it began to hurt more, his play began to diminish, too.
“I think I started more or less well the first set. Then I played a bad game in the second,” Nadal said. “It’s true that when the match was coming, my foot was coming, too. I started to suffer a little bit too much.”
A long match after not competing since early June isn’t the ideal scenario for Nadal, but he said it helps rebuild his fitness back to where it should be.
“So is about winning these kind of matches. That helps you to be better,” Nadal said. “Then, if I’m able to improve with my foot, I think the rest of the things going to come step by step.”
Nadal will face Lloyd Harris for the first time in a tournament during Thursday’s third round match at 7 p.m.
Harris advanced after Tennys Sandgren retired from their match in the second set. The South African won the first set and held a 1-0 lead in the second before it was called.