Rusty Rafael Nadal ‘not worried’ about sluggish win over Jack Sock, but eager to keep the momentum

Rafael Nadal pleased

Returning to competitive action after a two-month break was never going to be easy, but Rafael Nadal knows it is “part of the process” after overcoming a tricky opening match against Jack Sock at the Citi Open.

After opting to skip Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, Nadal finally made his return to action in Washington on Wednesday and it was a tough encounter as he required three hours and four minutes to beat Sock.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner eventually won 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-1) to set up a third-round clash with 14th seed Lloyd Harris.

“You need matches like this to be fitter after a month without competing. But that’s part of the process, and I know the process,” Nadal, who struggled with a foot injury during the French Open, said. “I went through all this stuff many times on my career. So it’s something I am not worried about.

“So is about winning these kind of matches. That helps you to be better. Then, if I’m able to improve with my foot, I think the rest of the things [are] going to come step by step.”

After saving three break points in a long third game, Nadal broke the Sock serve in games six and eight to take the opening set. The American wildcard held firm in the second set and eventually broke the world No 3’s serve in game seven to take the match to a decider.

Sock carried the momentum into the third set with a break in the opening game, but Nadal drew level in game six and then dominated the tie-breaker.

Up next is South African Harris, who advanced when American Tennys Sandgren retired while 6-4, 0-1 down, and Nadal is eager to keep his momentum.

“I have been resting enough. Maybe [it] is not about resting, but is the moment to just keep going,” he said. “[It] is the moment to not practise much because I played a three-hour match, so I need to be ready for tomorrow.

“[I will] have a short warm-up tomorrow, try to be ready for the match. I’m going to have a tough opponent in front. Let’s see. Tomorrow’s another day, another opportunity to play in front of this amazing crowd. I want to enjoy the experience again.”

Third seed Alex de Minaur crashed out as the Australian was beaten by Steve Johnson with the American winning 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-2 while sixth seed Dan Evans was another early casualty as the British No 1 suffered a 7-6 (7-1), 6-0 defeat at the hands of wildcard Brandon Nakashima from the United States.

Fifth seed Jannik Sinner advanced with 6-4, 6-2 win over Emil Ruusuvuori and he will face another young gun in Sebastian Korda after the 12th seed beat Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-4.