(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.