MASTERS 1000 CINCINNATI – The blow on the head: Nadal ousted from the start by Coric (7-6, 4-6, 6-3) for his return

A failed comeback. Rafael Nadal, 3rd in the world, who returned to the courts on Thursday after a six-week absence, was eliminated as soon as he entered the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati, beaten 7-6 (11/9) 4-6, 6- 3 by Croatian Borna Coric (152nd).

Twelve days before the start of the US Open, the Spaniard, who had not played since July 6 due to an abdominal tear which then forced him to withdraw before his semi-final at Wimbledon, did not not started the best preparation there is on American cement.

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If physically he lacked rhythm, at least he did not complain of these pains in the abdomen which bothered him in particular on serve, nor in his left foot where he has to deal with recurrent pain due to necrosis of the scaphoid bone.

In terms of tennis, however, his level appeared far from that displayed during the first half, when he won the Australian Open and Roland-Garros, making him the only record holder of the number of Grand Slam titles (22), ahead of Novak Djokovic, who won a 21st at Wimbledon this summer, and Roger Federer (20).

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Nadal overwhelmed

On the hard surface of Cincinnati, where he won in 2013, the 36-year-old Mallorcan was often overtaken, a rare thing, in exchanges (38 winning shots for Coric, against 22), lacking precision and sometimes committing big mistakes, like this forehand too uncrossed on a rise on the fly, which resulted in wasting a set point at 6-5 in the tie-break.

Nadal, who then missed a second opportunity, even offered the set, double-faulting on the third opportunity concluded by his rival.

The Spaniard recovered in the next, finally showing himself to be realistic. He broke to lead 4-3 on his first opportunity and volleyed his first set point.

But in the third set, he didn’t have that second wind that usually pushes him to force decisions. Unlike Coric, who broke to lead 4-2, without ever being worried about his commitment.

The 25-year-old Croatian, former 12th player in the world, who had had a complicated year in 2021 with shoulder surgery, finally won on his first match point in 2:54. A prestigious success likely to give a boost of confidence to Coric, who will challenge another Spaniard, Robert Bautista (19th) in the round of 16.

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