(AFP) – Rafael Nadal made a triumphant return from a two-month injury layoff on Wednesday but needed a third-set tie-breaker to outlast American Jack Sock and advance at the ATP Citi Open.
The 35-year-old Spanish left-hander, a 20-time Grand Slam champion making his Washington debut, dispatched 192nd-ranked Sock 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7/1) in a three-hour thriller before about 7,000 spectators at the US Open hardcourt tuneup event.
“It’s always a challenge playing against him,” Rafa said on court after the match. “For me has been a couple of months without competing, coming back from some problems, honestly.
“The foot was hurting me. It was painful tonight. Hopefully, it will feel better tomorrow. Winning the match helps.”
Top seed Rafa, chasing his 89th career title, will face 50th-ranked Lloyd Harris of South Africa on Thursday for a quarter-final berth.
Rafa had not played since losing to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in June’s French Open semi-finals, skipping Wimbledon and the Olympics due to a foot injury.
Rafa improved to 6-0 all-time against Sock by taking their first meeting since 2017.
Has anyone else had to turn off the volume of TC? Their constant praise of Harris was making me nauseous. Vamos Rafa! Your Rafan army is behind you all the way.
According to the ATP Tour, Rafa received a surprise gift after his match.
“After the legendary Spaniard battled past American Jack Sock in a final-set tie-break in the second round of the Citi Open, the top seed received a special gift. NHL star Lars Eller, who won the Stanley Cup in 2018 with the Washington Capitals, presented Nadal with a customised “Nadal” Capitals jersey.”
“It’s a sport I very much enjoy playing in my free time and also watching,” Eller said. “Especially having Nadal and this level of talent here, it’s a blessing to the city if you’re a tennis fan. We’ve got a Capitals jersey for him that I’m happy to hand over to him.”
Congratulations for your Victory yesterday Rafa!! and good luck for today!! 😀👍🏻👏🏻💪🏻💪🏻🙌🏻👌🏻.
I agree with you guys. We don’t like to see you in pain Rafa, we really appreciate your EFFORT, your SPIRIT, your FIGHT, you are marvelous and great, you are different…
Playing with pain, knowing and/asking yourself if the injury is still there…after 2 months without competing. And you kept fighting, you ‘you came back from the ashes’ once again (how many times?). Gosh!!. It’s worth it when we don’t even sleep just to see you are back, cause we miss you, TENNIS IS NOT THE SAME WHEN YOU ARE NOT ON THE TOUR, many of us even don’t watch or pay attention to the Tournaments…
You can win this Tournament, you can win in Toronto, the US OPEN, yes. The meaning of ‘Never give up’ you know it better than no one.
But first, your health, take care of your foot please.
Vamosssssss Rafa!! 💥🌠💪🏻💪🏻⚡💦💧🌊🌪️🌀🌈🔥🔥
Our Ranging Bull 🐂, ‘The King of Clay’ 👑
Rafa will continue to play until his foot tells his brain “no mas.” I just hope he does not cause irreparable damage to an already compromised foot.
We know Rafa can withstand a high degree of physical pain but from what I have read here he is trying to fight against his foot which is a different injury from previous ones. I hope he is thinking about his long-term health.
This has nothing to do about quitting, it’s about being practical so he can fight another day.
My thoughts are with Rafa and I hope he starts to feel better but I think it won’t be easy.
RAFA YOU ROCK
Correct me if I’m wrong…but hasn’t Rafa always had foot pain due to a congenial bone deformity. I believe he was born with out one of his tarsal bones and Nike makes him special shoes to accommodate this problem. Maybe this is a new injury I’m not sure all I know is between his foot & his knees Rafa is always in pain😓
The part I don’t understand is Rafa saying that the long pandemic lay off made his foot problem worse. But saying that suggests that its been a long standing problem.
Rafa clearly thinks he can play through it and that its part of a “process.” I’m sure he wouldn’t play if he risked making it worse but I hate to see him in pain.
I did read that surgery is not required so there’s one positive.
Good luck tonight Rafa!
Well don Rafa congratulations vamosssssss champ you can do it 💪💪💪🎾👍🇺🇸❤️
Our Rafa is the most determined player ever. From the beginning of 2nd he was perspiring heavily…yes we all know how much this happens…but not after 8 games. The look of pain on his face at times…I do not know how he continued. We all know his grunts but they were missing last night. It took a long time for even commentators to see he had an injury. My wish is to forget this 500. Rest the foot, but am not sure if he’s taken 2months out to heal it…what are his chances now. Whatever happens, I just wish our Champion to return to full health….no match is worth jeopardising your future. Health is Wealth. Wishing you a return to full fitness Rafa. Vamos
I agree that your health is important but so is your passion with tennis. Vamos Rafa.
While we would want you to play the next round, do not jeopardize your health. The response to your entry in Washington tells you that tennis needs your charisma and participation. Best of luck to you
and your team-congrats on the win.🙏👏💪👍🤛🍀🎾❤️
You never cease to amaze and INSPIRE! Never ever ever give up!! But take care of your foot. What would tennis be without the King?? Vamos!
Tough match and Sock played some great tennis. Rafa was on the ropes but with the heart of a true champion he played a great tie breaker. Worrying to see him limping, obviously same injury he received in RG. Fingers crossed that he will be able to continue. The Washington crowd lived him. 🇪🇸👏
I agree with what everyone has written. Please take care of the foot( as I’m sure you did and will still do) I became worried when I saw Rafa hobble but knowing that Sock who played extremely well might get ahead, Our man Rafa the ❤️ of champions came fighting and won. I pray 🙏 that all will be well and he will continue his passion and legacy.
For your Great Match Rafa, most glad to congratulate you, if you´ar ready ¡¡ Vamos Rafa !!
Not happy with his foot😌 take care Rafa. Happy for the win but be careful.
We want you to win, always, but will You be ready and healthy for the US Open, Rafa? I would not be surprised if Rafa didn’t play today.
Vamos King Rafa Today Game whose very Good for your Frist Time playing in Washington Dc i Wisch you a Good luck King
The match was touch and go and could have easily gone the other way. Rafa was shaking his head to his physio and pointing down to his foot. I guess that says it all. Think of what’s ahead and pull out champ!
Rafa has a way of pulling it out when he gets behind so I never worried for a second because of his grit and determination…
My serious concern is the pain he’s experiencing in his foot as he made it clear tonight in his interview that he had to fight both mentally and physically in this match…meaning he had 2 opponents…. I was hoping he was going to say his foot is not too bad but that is not the case.. We all know playing on hard court is very “hard” on the body and I fear that maybe he will injure it more by continuing with this tournament……Maybe Rafa needs more time to rehab his foot…
I know…Rafa gets better and better with every match he plays …. but at what cost?
I hope he rests tonight….his physio will help Rafa manage the pain… and tomorrow we will see how he feels….
Buenas Noches Rafa….
I am worried about his foot. He looked in so much pain
I hear you. But Rafa seemed less worried than we are so there’s that. Was certainly an exciting – and frustrating – match!
Watched with bated breath when you pulled up during the second set. So glad that your grit got you through a very competitive match, a good test. Now you are ready!!! Vamos!!!!