Nadal wins, and has things to say

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NEW YORK – Rafael Nadal was down 3-5 in the first set of his first-round match against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia Tuesday, as the rain came down outside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

But safely ensconced under the $150 million roof, the new world No. 1 had no problem regaining his composure in a 7-6 (6), 6-2, 6-2 victory.

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The Mallorcan and either Roger Federer or Frances Tiafoe, who play Tuesday night, will be safely through to the second round.

The rest of their half of the draw were left sodden or stuck in the locker room all day. Play on all the outside courts – including the matches in progress – was called just after 3 p.m.

On Murray’s late withdrawal

Afterwards, Nadal had some things to say – notably about No. 2 seed Andy Murray’s last-minute withdrawal from the tournament.

There’s a self-serving component to this, of course. No. 3 seed Roger Federer, who has won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year and beaten Nadal three times, ended up in Nadal’s half of the draw.

Had Murray pulled out before Friday’s draw, Federer would have been seeded No. 2 and they would have been in opposite halves.

Nadal thought the decision was “strange”. He assumed, if Murray was on site practicing, it was because he was going to play.

“Was a little bit strange that he retired just the morning after the draw was made. Was something that is a little bit strange and difficult to understand, but the worst thing is, yeah, he is not healthy and I wish him a very fast recovery,” Nadal said. “Normally when you retire on – was Saturday morning? And the draw was made Friday? Normally you want to keep practicing, keep trying until the last moment. You don’t retire Saturday morning. You retire Monday morning or Sunday afternoon, not Saturday morning.”

Nadal said that if you don’t leave it to the very, very, very last minute, you do it before the draw is made. “But of course he has his reason, and for sure the negative – the only news and the negative news was that he will not be playing here,” he added.

On the cacophony of Ashe

The 31-year-old also talked about how loud it gets on Arthur Ashe Stadium when the roof is closed. He said it was loud enough that he couldn’t even hear himself hitting the ball.

And this was a day session, when the patrons are less … well, refreshed and not as loud as they are at night.

“The energy and support of the crowd is massive. I enjoy it and I have unforgettable memories from this tournament and this court, because the energy is different from in other places. But at the same time is true that today, under the roof, was too much. Too much noise, no? I was not able to hear the ball when you are hitting, no?” Nadal said.

“So I don’t know. I understand it’s a show, at the end of the day, and I enjoy that. I feel part of this, of course, but under the roof, you know, we need to be a little bit more strict about the noise, in my opinion, no? Because all the noise stays inside, and this is difficult, no? With the roof open, feeling change a lot.”

Nadal said that there were times during the match when Nadal said he asked Lajovic (who was playing at a sprightly pace) to hold up on the serve. And Lajovic couldn’t hear him. “So difficult to analyze how the ball is coming when you are not hearing very well the sound of the opponent’s ball,” he said.

On being No. 1 at 31

Nadal said he had been practicing a lot better in New York than he had in Cincinnati in Montreal. In the two Masters 1000 events on hard courts this summer, he went down to defeat in surprising fashion.

But he says being No. 1, at his age, is a blessing. 
  

“And today, here I am at 31. If you tell me I will be here with 31 being No. 1 of the world – especially, seven, six, ten years ago – I will not believe you, so I try to enjoy every day without thinking much about what happened or what can happen,” he said.  “I just go day by day, week by week, and I am happy doing what I am doing today. I don’t know what gonna happen tomorrow, and in terms of my tennis career, I not thinking much. I’m not worried about when arrive the day that I have to say good-bye.”

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