World number one Rafael Nadal looks to continue his US Open title tilt against Japan’s Taro Daniel, ranked 120 places below him. It’s a clash that pits youth against experience and it will be interesting to see what the young Japanese can do against the illustrious Spaniard. Who will come out on top in the final match of the day on Arthur Ashe?
Nadal and Daniel have never met before. In fact, Daniel has played only one of men’s tennis’ biggest names, losing to Stan Wawrinka at the 2016 French Open. Where Nadal does, unsurprisingly, have the clear advantage is in experience. Daniel has won just 18 matches so far in his career and is yet to win a title on the ATP Tour. Nadal, in contrast, has won 73 titles in his career and has 856 match wins, including 50 this year. He is also twice a champion at the US Open and has won 15 Majors in total. Daniel has won just three matches at Grand Slam level.
Path to the second round
Nadal began his US Open campaign under the roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday whilst rain washed out the rest of the tournament. His opponent in the first round was Dusan Lajovic of Serbia. Nadal was given an early scare, falling a break down in the first set. Lajovic served for it, but two straight net chords went against him, and Nadal broke back. The first set still went to a tie break, which was closely fought. Eventually, Nadal managed to pull through. From there the momentum was all with the Spaniard, and he made it count, dropping just four more games. Nadal came through 7-6 6-2 6-2 but will be looking for a faster start against Daniel.
The Japanese was one of the unlucky players forced to begin their US Open on Wednesday. He did so against Tommy Paul, the young American who has had a breakthrough summer in North America. Paul looked to be continuing that fine run when he took a two sets to one lead, but the Japanese, who was born in New York, had other ideas. Daniel fought back superbly and dropped just four games in the fourth and fifth sets to win 6-1 4-6 4-6 6-2 6-2.
How do they match up?
Nadal’s game style is not the most complex, but he is superbly effective at executing the game he knows. Based around a dominating forehand and almost unrivalled court coverage, there are few players harder to beat than Nadal. His backhand has also improved since Carlos Moya joined his coaching team. Nadal has started to hit the ball harder and flatter off that wing, making him even harder to beat from the back of the court. Daniel is a very solid baseliner, and an excellent mover, but is slightly short of power. This is particularly true of his serve, which can be punished by good returners. He is, however, a fine net player.
How well Daniel’s backhand stands up to the pressure that Nadal will doubtless try to exert with his forehand will be crucial. Daniel does possess a useful backhand down the line though, a shot Novak Djokovic has used to great effect against Nadal. If Daniel can find it regularly, he may well trouble Nadal, especially on a reasonably fast hard court.
Daniel is a good player, but Nadal is a great one. He should have too much power from the back of the court for Daniel to compete with over a best-of-five set match. Moreover, with Daniel preferring to play from the back of the court, it is difficult to see how he will be able to unsettle Nadal enough to win. There are few players that can beat the Spaniard from the baseline, and Daniel is not one of them. Nadal in straight sets.
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