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Nadal Gets By Golubev To Open Title Defence

New York, U.S.A.

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal withstood 41 winners from the racquet of Andrey Golubev.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal was given a workout in his opening match at the US Open, coming through an entertaining clash with Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev 6-3, 7-6(1), 7-5 on Tuesday night in New York.

World No. 98 Golubev, who came in with a 6-24 record on the season – including 16 first-round losses - led in all three sets, but failed to capitalise each time. The 24 year old squandered seven set points in the second set and twice failed to serve out the third set as Nadal was forced to draw on all his defensive skills to overcome the big-hitter in two hours and 49 minutes.

The big stage can draw out a big performance, and Golubev dazzled the Arthur Ashe crowd with a blistering array of 41 winners. However, he was ultimately undone by 59 accompanying unforced errors and it was Nadal who finished on top, reeling off five straight games before claiming victory with a forehand pass on the run.

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"I was nervous today, it's normal to start a tournament like this," said Nadal. "He didn't help because he played very fast all the time. He was trying to hit a winner on almost every shot. So it was difficult for me to find some rhythm.

"But it's a positive start winning in straight sets, even though it's unbelievable that I did. I'm happy for the victory and happy to come back to New York. I don't think I played that badly, but the mental part was positive tonight. My tennis for sure can improve, I have to play a little bit more inside the court, but I am confident I can do it."

The 25-year-old Nadal has played just two events since finishing runner-up at Wimbledon (l. to Djokovic), losing in the second round in Montreal (l. to Dodig) before reaching the quarter-finals in Cincinnati (l. to Fish). The Roland Garros champion improved to a 54-10 mark on the season. He next will face Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, who rallied from two sets down to defeat Colombian Robert Farah 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4, 6-0.

Austrian No. 17 seed Jurgen Melzer made light work of his opener, dismissing Frenchman Eric Prodon 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-2 in one hour and 54 minutes. Melzer, who came into the US Open on the back of three opening-round defeats, found his form as he fired 13 aces and broke serve six times from 15 opportunities. The left-hander posted his best result at Flushing Meadows last season, when he reached the fourth round (l. to Federer).

Both No. 14 seed Stanislas Wawrinka and No. 19 Fernando Verdasco were forced to fight from a set down to secure their places in the second round. Wawrinka, who last year defeated Andy Murray en route to the quarter-finals, overcame Argentine Maximo Gonzalez 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 in two hours and 28 minutes to set up a meeting with Donald Young. Recent Washington semi-finalist Young notched just his second main draw win at Flushing Meadows as he beat Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Spain’s Verdasco recorded his 30th tour-level win of the season as he beat Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in two hours and 36 minutes. The left-hander is bidding to reach the quarter-finals in New York for the third year in a row.

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