Rafa Nadal lost 7-6(9) 4-6 6-3 to Borna Coric at the Cincinnati Open on Wednesday in the Spaniard’s first match since pulling out of the Wimbledon semi-finals due to injury, dealing a big blow to his preparations for the U.S. Open.
The 22-times Grand Slam winner had been hoping to get as many matches under his belt as possible after returning from an abdominal injury, but losing to the Croat means he heads to Flushing Meadows well short of competitive action.
Taylor Fritz blasted his way to a 6-3 6-2 win over Australian Nick Kyrgios while Cameron Norrie fought back to beat former world number one Andy Murray 3-6 6-3 6-4 in an all-British clash.
After an hour-long rain delay, Coric, who returned to the Tour in March after a lengthy absence due to a shoulder surgery, edged a nail-biting tiebreaker to take the opener after each player had saved two set points.
With the crowd firmly behind Nadal, the 36-year-old roared back into the contest by breaking former world number 12 Coric’s serve midway through the second set to force a decider.
But Coric, now ranked 152nd, got his only break of the left-hander’s serve for a 4-2 lead and then sealed his spot in the third round with an inside-out forehand winner on his first match point after two hours and 51 minutes.
Coric will next play another Spaniard in Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated home hope Marcos Giron 6-3 6-3.
The upset of the day went to American wild card Ben Shelton after the 19-year-old continued his dream ATP Masters debut with a 6-3 6-3 win over world number five Casper Ruud.
A day after taking down Lorenzo Sonego, the 229th ranked Shelton needed just 68 minutes to beat Ruud and advance to a third-round match against fellow left-hander Norrie.
American number one Fritz sent down 16 aces to come out on top against Kyrgios, with the Australian firing just seven of his own and offsetting most of those with six double faults.
The 11th-seeded Fritz needed just 51 minutes to hand Kyrgios his second defeat since losing to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final.
Fritz will next meet sixth seed Andrey Rublev after the Russian scored a 6-7(7) 7-6(3) 6-2 win over Italy›s Fabio Fognini.