New York: Rafael Nadal launched his tilt at a fourth US Open title Tuesday with a defeat of John Millman as in his half of the draw other leading seeds were collapsed in the first round.
Four players in the world’s top 10 — Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Karen Khachanov and Roberto Bautista Agut — lost Tuesday to ease Nadal’s potential path to the final.
The Spanish second seed — US Open champion in 2010, 2013 and 2017 — needed scarcely two hours to see Millman off 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 at Arthur Ashe Stadium with the world number 60 from Australia unable to reproduce the magic that saw him stun Roger Federer here a year ago.
The beginning, the first match, is always a little bit new even if I’ve played here plenty of times,” said Nadal, who meets Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis next. “I think I played well and in general am very happy with the way I started.
“He (Millman) showed last year what he’s able to do when he’s doing well and I came on court with a lot of respect.”
Two-time French Open runner-up Thiem was upset by Italian giant-killer Thomas Fabbiano 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, as the Austrian flumped to another first-round exit, having lost at the same stage at Wimbledon.
“I got very tired and exhausted after two sets. I’m far away from 100 percent,” Thiem said. “It was not the real me there on the court.”
Greek eighth seed Tsitsipas struggled with cramps and accused umpires of having “preferences” after he fell to a 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (9/7), 7-5 defeat by Next Gen rival Andrey Rublev in a gruelling four-hour slog.