Nadal forced to fight
Defending champion Rafael Nadal overcame a blister on his right foot and two tight sets yesterday to beat David Nalbandian 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 7-5 and reach the US Open fourth round.
The 76th-ranked Nalbandian went up a break in the fifth game and served for the first set at 5-4, but he double-faulted on break point. Then, at 3-3 in the tiebreaker, Nalbandian double-faulted again, helping Nadal nose ahead. Nadal breezed through the middle set, but was forced to fight hard in the third against his friend and frequent practice partner.
Nalbandian broke to begin the third set, but Nadal broke back to 1-1, then took an injury timeout after that game to have his right foot taped because of the blister.
"I think I played my best match of the tournament, so I'm happy for that," Nadal said. "Every day is tougher and tougher."
Nadal played far more cleanly yesterday and finished with only 18 unforced errors, 42 fewer than Nalbandian's total.
The Spaniard caused concern, however, in the post-match press conference when he appeared in pain and slid off his chair although it was later diagnosed as just cramp. He will now face 68th-ranked Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, who hit 23 aces in his 6-1 6-4 6-4 victory over Igor Kunitsyn of Russia, for a spot in the quarter-finals.