Nadal a hard op­po­nent on the hard court

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Player Profile - BY GE­ORGE DICKIE

Ten­nis fans know Rafael Nadal as per­haps the pre-em­i­nent clay court player of all time. His 12 French Open ti­tles are tes­ta­ment to that.

But a closer look at his stats re­veals another fact: He’s not too shabby on hard courts, ei­ther.

In­deed, as the 33-year-old Spa­niard read­ies to com­pete on the hard courts of USTA Bil­lie Jean King Na­tional Ten­nis Cen­ter in Flush­ing Mead­ows-Corona Park, N.Y., in the 2019 U.S. Open, which airs for the next fort­night on ESPN and ESPN2 be­gin­ning Mon­day, Aug. 26, it’s ap­par­ent that he’s not ex­actly com­ing in as an un­der­dog, hav­ing won this tour­na­ment in 2010, 2013 and 2017.

Fur­ther, in 24 ca­reer matches on the sur­face, the man known as Rafa has posted a win­ning per­cent­age of 87.5 and a set win­ning per­cent­age of 81.3. Of the top 100 players on the ATP Tour, that puts him be­hind only one, No­vak Djokovic, widely con­sid­ered to be among the great all-time hard court players.

He came into last year’s U.S. Open as the de­fend­ing cham­pion, only to ex­pe­ri­ence frus­tra­tion, dis­ap­point­ment and pain in his semi­fi­nal match against Juan Martin del Potro, as ten­dini­tis in his right knee forced him to re­tire af­ter los­ing the first two sets. The Spa­niard del Potro would then go on to lose to Djokovic in the fi­nal, giv­ing the Serb his third U.S. Open ti­tle.

Nadal will be­gin pur­suit of his fourth U.S. Open cham­pi­onship and 19th Grand Slam vic­tory this week against a field in­clud­ing Djokovic, del Potro, Roger Fed­erer, Do­minic Thiem, Alexan­der Zverev and other top men’s players.

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