Rafael Nadal drops first set but rallies to defeat Rinky Hijikata at US Open
NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal started the match playing on two legs and seemed to come out of his funk with his game on his side after defeating Tomas Berdych at the US Open on Saturday.
But a run of 10 unforced errors that started with the third-seeded Nadal’s loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals cost the Spaniard at a time when he was fighting to gain a psychological edge on a player who’s won the last five Grand Slam tournaments on clay.
The errors and the loss of serve from the Spaniard set up a brutal fourth-round match later in the afternoon with Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev, which Nadal lost in three sets.
“I think it’s one of the things that’s been bothering me all the time,” said the 23-year-old Nadal, whose record at the US Open is 24-10 and who was serving for the sixth time on Centre Court. “I’m not really happy about it but at the same time I’ll try to learn from it.”
In two earlier rounds he shot 5-for-12 on his second serve. He had six double faults in the third set.
“I was happy to play well because I had a big chance to close the match, but I was not able to do it,” said Nadal, who had played Berdych just once, at the 2008 French Open.
But Berdych played another difficult third set, and with his serve again broken for the second time, Nadal had to make a crucial tactical decision on a difficult point and let Berdych through to the fourth round.
“I think this was maybe the most important match,�