Ciao Bella: Rafael Nadal knocked out of U.S. Open in third round

5 September 2015

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Fabio Fognini, of Italy, reacts after taking a point from Rafael Nadal, of Spain, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Fabio Fognini, of Italy, reacts after taking a point from Rafael Nadal, of Spain, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

NEW YORK – Fabio Fognini stood at the baseline and looked up. It was nearly 1:30a.m. on a relatively cool night in New York. The stadium around him was in shock.

He, too, couldn’t seem to believe what he had just done. The 28-year-old Italian knocked fan-favorite Rafael Nadal out of the U.S. Open, winning a five-setter in which Nadal had taken the first two sets.

Midway through the third set, it looked like Nadal would walk away with the easy win. Instead, the two-time champion is going home on the wrong side of 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, upset by the No. 32 seed.

Nadal lost in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and the Australian Open this year. He lost in the second round at Wimbledon. He had not dropped a set coming into this third-round match. This will be the first year since 2004 that he did not win a single Grand Slam.

“For me [it] was amazing [to] win 10 years in a row… You can imagine how difficult [it] is [to] make that happen,” he said after the match. “[I’ll] accept that [this] was not my year and keep fighting till the end of the season to finish in a positive way for me.”

Earlier on Ashe, Novak Djokovic advanced in straight sets with a 6-3, 7-5, 7-5 win over No. 25 Andreas Seppi. Djokovic is having more fun than anyone here. He danced with a fan at the end of his second-round win. Friday, he had a playful back and forth with the Arthur Ashe Stadium DJ, then stayed on court signing autographs for every single person holding a towel or ball or photo.

Since winning in 2011, Djokovic has twice been runner-up. He lost to Kei Nishikori in the semifinal last year. He has yet to drop a set in this tournament.

Seppi broke Djokovic as the No. 1 served for the match in the third set, prolonging the match another game. Djokovic broke right back and held serve for the win.

“Obviously I didn’t want to get into a fourth set,” he said in his post-match press conference. “He played a very good game. Got a little bit tight. Match could have gone either way.”

Djokovic’s quarter of the draw is now looking incredibly good for his chances of returning to the semifinals.

In addition to Nadal, No. 10 Milos Raonic fell on Friday, 6-2, 7-6, 6-3, to No. 18 Feliciano Lopez. Lopez will face Fognini in the fourth round. Djokovic will face No. 23 Roberto Bautista-Agut, who won when No. 14 David Goffin retired.

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