Rafa, Venus survive second round

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Danielle Elliot
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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, returns a shot to Diego Schwartzman, of Argentina, during the second round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Rafael Nadal, of Spain, returns a shot to Diego Schwartzman, of Argentina, during the second round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK – Rafael Nadal survived a tight second-round match late on Wednesday afternoon. At least, fans thought it was tight. Nadal said later that he never doubted he’d win. The 14-time Grand Slam champion won in straight sets, defeating Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, 7-6, 6-3, 7-5. 

As Nadal finished on Armstrong, Venus Williams prepared to take the court in Arthur Ashe Stadium. She started powerfully but faltered late in the second set. Fellow American Irina Falconi seized the opportunity, earning a break at 5-6 to force a tiebreak. She dominated the tiebreak to even the match at 1-1.

As quickly as that door opened for Falconi, Williams slammed it shut. She was solid in the final set as she closed out the 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 win. It wasn’t the best match for either – Venus served six aces and was just 65 percent on first-serves while hitting 47 unforced errors; Falconi’s serve was slower and less accurate, and she hit 34 unforced errors. 

“After losing the second set, she played a great tiebreaker, just produced a lot of great shots. In the third set I felt like I had a lot more clarity. I had the crowd behind me. Thank you guys,” Williams said on the court after the match. “I was just hoping to continue to clean up my errors as the match goes on and play aggressive at the right moments… I feel like I’m just playing the big points well.”

Venus Williams, of the United States, watches a return to Irina Falconi, of the United States, at the U.S. Open tennis tournamen in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Venus Williams, of the United States, watches a return to Irina Falconi, of the United States, at the U.S. Open tennis tournamen in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

It might not have been pretty for either, but Williams and Nadal move on. “Today I didn't have an up and down [day],” Nadal said after his match. “I just played a bad game with the 5-3 in the first set and then I didn't play great, but I didn't play bad. I played a normal match.”

The problem is that no one is used to see Nadal play normal tennis. His cultish fans still expect the Rafa of old. It’s time for fans to adjust their expectations. 

He added that matches like the one he played Wednesday are actually what he needs right now. “[It] is important to come back and feel that mentally I am enough strong to play well when I had to play well,” he said. Nadal served eight aces in the match and won 75 percent of first-serve points. He was strong at the net, winning 15 of his 19 opportunities there. He’ll face No. 32 Fabio Fognini in the third round.

Williams will face No. 12 Belinda Bencic next, who barely survived her own three-setter on Court 11. Williams said her strategy against Bencic will be straight-forward: “No magic to it. Just win the last point.”

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Danielle Elliot is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Find her on Twitter and Facebook. 

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