Rafael Nadal beats Denis Istomin
NEW YORK -- Even Rafael Nadal felt compelled to applaud when his second-round opponent at the U.S. Open hit a spectacular, full-sprint winner and was left doing the splits at the net.
The shot put Denis Istomin within two points of tying the match at a set apiece. He couldn't manage to close the deal, though -- a recurring theme for Nadal's game-but-outclassed foil in the No. 1-seeded Spaniard's 6-2, 7-6 (5), 7-5 victory Friday night.
Eight-time major champion Nadal is seeking to complete a career Grand Slam, and he reached the third round at Flushing Meadows for the sixth consecutive year. He's never been past the semifinals, where he lost in 2008 and 2009.
"I don't want to talk about [winning a title] here now," Nadal said, "because I am five matches away. Is a lot."
He served at up to 134 mph and saved all seven break points against Istomin, a rare example of an ATP player whose mother is his coach.
"I'm working on my serve all my life. Sometimes, [it] works well. Other times, not working that well," said Nadal, who has saved all eight break points he's faced in the tournament. "A few days ago, I started to feel very well with my serve. First two matches, I've served very well. Didn't lose a serve, and that does good for the confidence."
Two of those break points Friday came when Nadal served while leading 3-2 in the second set. Four came at 1-all in the third set. And the last was at 4-all in the third set, constituting Istomin's final true stand.
He appeared to be on the way to making things more interesting earlier in the match.
The 39th-ranked Istomin took a 5-1 lead in the second-set tiebreak with the shot of the evening: After playing some solid defense, he charged up from behind the baseline to get to a drop shot and, leaving a 10-foot skid mark in his wake on the blue court, slid into the splits while stretching for a backhand winner.
Istomin dropped his racket, pumped both fists and screamed, "Come on!" Some spectators reacted with a standing ovation, and Nadal saluted the effort, too.
"A great point," Nadal said.
That, though, was pretty much that for Istomin, who lost the next six points, the set -- and any momentum he appeared to gain.
"I was a little bit lucky in the tiebreak of the second set," Nadal said. "That's the truth."
Istomin pushed a backhand wide on the next point, and then Nadal hit a volley winner to cut it to 5-3. Istomin netted a forehand, and Nadal hit a forehand that clipped the net and landed in. Nadal went up 6-5, earning a set point, with a service winner at 134 mph, and Istomin sailed a backhand long on the next exchange, ending the tiebreak.
During the break between the second and third sets, Istomin got his right thigh taped by a trainer.
Nadal went on to wrap up his 17th consecutive Grand Slam match victory, following titles at the French Open and Wimbledon. Still only 24 years old, he has already won five championships at Roland Garros, two at the All England Club and one at the Australian Open.
If he can add a U.S. Open trophy to his collection, he will become the seventh man with at least one title from each Grand Slam tournament.
Nadal is one of seven Spanish men -- including Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro, Feliciano Lopez, Tommy Robredo and Daniel Gimeno-Traver -- who won matches Friday, giving the country a tournament-high nine representatives in the third round.
Earlier, Britain's Andy Murray defeated Jamaica's Dustin Brown 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 to move into the third round. Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey also reached the third round, but fellow American Ryan Harrison wasted three match points in a fifth-set tiebreak to lose to Sergiy Stakhovsky in their second-round match.
The fourth-seeded Murray is seeking to make his second U.S. Open final in three years. He won this year's U.S. Open Series title, which means he could earn up to an extra $1 million in prize money if he wins the tournament.
Brown pushed him to 5-5 in the first set of the match, but Murray won 14 of the next 17 games. The entire match lasted 1 hour, 25 minutes and the third set went 18 minutes.
The 18th-seeded Isner, the highest ranked U.S. man left in the tournament, defeated Switzerland's Marco Chiudinelli 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4. He served 24 aces and maxed out at 144 mph.
Isner, who defeated Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set of the first round at Wimbledon, has spent just under five hours on the court in his two wins at Flushing Meadows -- still six hours less than he spent in the history-making win over Mahut.
"I don't want [Wimbledon] to be, like, the lasting image of my career," the 6-foot-9 Isner said. "So that's up to me to make it not that way. It's up to me to do well in big tournaments, tournaments such as this."
He needs one more win to match his best showing ever at the U.S. Open or any Grand Slam tournament.
Querrey reached the third round for the third straight year with a straight-sets win over Marcel Granollers of Spain. The 20th-seeded Querrey had 42 winners in a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win and is now 8-4 at Flushing Meadows in his career.
"Hopefully it'll continue on, and hopefully James [Blake] and Mardy [Fish] and other Americans will keep moving forward, too," said Querrey
The 94th-ranked Granollers won a five-set match in the first round.
Harrison, an 18-year-old qualifier, led 6-3 in the tiebreak but lost the next five points. The 36th-ranked Stakhovsky won 6-3, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6).
Fans packed the Grandstand and peered in from neighboring Louis Armstrong Stadium to cheer on Harrison, the youngest and lowest-ranked player left in the draw.
"That was incredible," Harrison said. "They were great. There were some balls that I ran down and was able to scoop up and get back in the point, win some points, just because of the energy and the electricity that I'm feeling because of everything. I can't remember the last time I was, late in a match like that, jogging off every changeover."
Harrison, based in Bradenton, Fla., is ranked 220th. He upset 15th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic in the first round.
The match took 4 hours, 13 minutes.
"Obviously I'm not the happiest person in the world right now," Harrison said. "But looking back on it, it was a great experience. My ranking is 220 in the world right now, and I'm trying to hopefully get to the top 10. So I feel like one match doesn't make or break that. It's the experience of playing these type of matches that is really going to help me to get there."
Querrey watched part of Harrison's match and called it a "tough one."
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"Ryan's going to be a good player," Querrey said, "and he'll definitely be in the third round next year."
Stakhovsky has won seven straight matches after the Ukrainian captured his second title of the year last week at New Haven.
In other results, No. 12 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia held off Dudi Sela of Israel 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3; No. 25 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland defeated Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina 7-5, 6-3, 6-4; and No. 31 David Nalbandian of Argentina beat Florent Serra of France 7-5, 6-4, 6-2.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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