Rafael Nadal was left with a bloody nose after a freak accident in his four-set win over Fabio Fognini at the US Open on Thursday night.
Seeking a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title, Nadal was cruising towards a comfortable win when he stretched for a wide backhand.
His racquet rebounded off the court and onto the bridge of his nose, immediately drawing blood and prompting the Spaniard to walk back to his chair and lay down.
Nadal grimaced, dropped his racket, put a palm to his face and then placed both hands on his head.
He said at his post-match news conference he thought right away that he might have broken his nose, which kept swelling.
“At the beginning I thought I [broke] the nose because it was a shock at the beginning. Was very painful. I lost little bit the… feeling of my head. It’s about being a little bit out of the world,” Nadal said.
After having a physio apply tape to his nose, Nadal returned to the court a few minutes later to close out the 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 victory in the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Thankfully, Nadal retained his sense of humour about the incident.
Asked during his on-court interview whether something like this had ever happened before, he smiled and replied: “With a golf club but not with a tennis racket.”
The Spaniard will play former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet on Saturday.
Nadal was optimistic about his chances.
“I am practising much, much better than what I am playing. That’s a positive thing. Then I need to make that happen in the matches. It’s something that is not easy. But I’m making a step forward,” Nadal said.
“I think at the end of the match today I played better than in the first round without a doubt, too. It’s an improvement. Two matches already. Two victories. That helps. Now another opportunity against Richard.”
Nadal has won four of his 22 Grand Slam titles at the U.S. Open, most recently in 2019.