WASHINGTON, Aug 6 ― Rafael Nadal crashed out of his comeback event after a two-month layoff, falling to South Africa's 50th-ranked Lloyd Harris yesterday in a third-round match at the ATP Citi Open.
The 35-year-old Spanish left-hander, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, lost to 14th seed Harris 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in only his second match on the Washington hardcourts.
Nadal aggravated a foot injury in a three-set victory over American Jack Sock on Wednesday in his first match since losing a French Open semi-final to Novak Djokovic.
But Nadal said after his loss that his left foot was improved even if he could not rally for the victory.
“Best news, the foot was better than yesterday,” Nadal said.
Nadal did not pick up a racquet for 20 days because of his sore foot, skipping Wimbledon and the Olympics.
Top seed Nadal played the event for the first time as a chance for more matches to rebuild his fitness as he prepares for the start of the US Open on August 30.
“I'll just keep going accept the challenge before me and I have a chance next week in Toronto,” Nadal said.
Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer all enter the US Open with a men's record 20 career Slam titles, with Djokovic trying to complete the first men's calendar-year Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.
Harris was the first player to beat Nadal in their initial meeting since Denis Shapovalov at Montreal in 2017.
By ousting third-ranked Nadal, Harris picked up his second win over a top-10 foe this year, the first coming at Dubai over fourth-ranked Dominic Thiem, the reigning US Open champion.
Harris booked a Friday quarter-final against Japan's Kei Nishikori.
Nadal netted a forehand to surrender a break in the seventh game and Harris, ranked a career-best 50th, denied the Spaniard on a break chance in the final game before taking the first set after 39 minutes on a forehand winner.
Nadal swatted a spectacular forehand passing winner to break Harris for a 3-1 lead in the second set, a left fist pump and scream showing his delight.
He delivered another forehand winner to break for a 5-1 edge and held to force a third set.
Harris, 24, saved two break points in the first game of the final set, the second on his 10th ace, and both held until match point, when the South African lifted a winner past Nadal.
Nishikori rallied to defeat British seventh seed Cameron Norrie 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Left-hander Norrie needed right foot treatment after Nishikori broke to lead 3-2. They traded breaks in the final three games, Norrie sending a forehand wide on match point.
“I lost Lloyd in Dubai this year, so not my favorite opponent,” Nishikori said. “But we'll see.”
In a match of 20-year-olds, Canadian second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, ranked a career-high 15th, fell to US wildcard Jenson Brooksby 6-3, 6-4.
Brooksby, ranked 130th, was runner-up last month at Newport but had never beaten a top-90 opponent.
Auger-Aliassime fell behind a set and a break after an hour, double faulting away the fifth game, and Brooksby held at love in the final game, advancing on a service winner after 86 minutes.
“I'll have to see what I could have done in certain areas,” the Canadian said. “I fought with what I had, but overall he played a better match.”
Brooksby plays for a semi-final berth Friday against Australian 11th seed John Millman. The 32-year-old Aussie, whose only ATP title came last November at Kazakhstan, beat US eighth seed Reilly Opelka 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
Italian 19-year-old Jannik Sinner edged 20-year-old American Sebastian Korda 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/3), booking a matchup with American Steve Johnson. ― AFP