Borna Coric spoiled the return of Rafael Nadal after a five-year absence from the ATP and WTA Masters in Cincinnati on Wednesday with a 7-6 (11/9), 4-6, 6-3 Victory upset in the second round.
The 36-year-old Spaniard, who won the Cincinnati title in 2013, was playing his first match in more than a month after pulling out with an abdominal injury in his Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.
“When you come back from injury, if you win the first game, things get better,” Nadal said. “That was not the case today.”
Nadal started the season with three titles and 20 straight wins, but will head to the US Open after just one hard-court summer match.
“This tournament was tough for me. He played better,” Nadal said. “It’s hard to take a lot of positive things out of this game.
“I have to train. I have to come back better. That’s the truth.”
The nighttime appearance of the 22-time Grand Slam champion was interrupted for an hour and a quarter by rain in the first set.
Once back, the pair struggled in a first-set tiebreaker that lasted over a quarter of an hour.
Nadal missed two set points and had to save two for Coric.
But on the Croatian’s third chance, Nadal gave up the set after an hour and a quarter on the court with a costly double fault.
“I had chances in the tiebreaker and played very badly on two easy set points,” Nadal said.
Nadal then took another 75 minutes to settle the game with a break in the seventh game of the second set.
The Spaniard was broken to trail 2-4 on a forehand wide, opening the door for Coric to take the win in just under three hours.
“It was very, very special,” said Coric, who underwent shoulder surgery last year. “I’ve been injured for the past two years. I haven’t played on the big stage.
“I was looking forward to playing this game. It was a bit crazy, I would say.”
Rafael Nadal in his loss to Borna Coric at the Cincinnati Masters. (Photo by Frey/TPN/Getty Images)
Kyrgios, meanwhile, strayed amid objections to publicity lights on the court, with the Wimbledon runner-up losing 6-3, 6-2 to American Taylor Fritz.
The Australian was in complaint mode from the start, lamenting the distraction of flickering LED lights on a billboard and demanding a solution.
World No. 28 Kyrgios, after a stellar summer that included Washington’s title this month, couldn’t find his best game when he crashed into 11th seed Fritz after just 50 minutes.
Women’s 10th seed Emma Raducanu dispatched her second Grand Slam champion in less than 24 hours, crushing Victoria Azarenka 6-0, 6-2.
The teenage US Open champion won the first 10 matches before two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka finally won a match.
But the young Briton, who ousted Serena Williams the night before with another love set, denied Azarenka on two break points in the final game to win in 63 minutes.
“It was another really tough game and a tough game against Vika,” Raducanu said. “I knew I had to be really on my game. I didn’t have much time to turn around.
“Obviously I’m happy with the way I played today and how I stayed really focused.”
Andy Murray needed a post-match visit to the coach’s pitch after losing 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Cameron Norrie in the second round.
Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion and two-time Cincinnati champion, needed a massage on his right thigh before leaving the court after battling for nearly two and three-quarters hours.
“My consistency was maybe not where I wanted it to be,” Murray said. “But sometimes there was some positive tennis in there. I definitely had enough chances to win.”
After experiencing cramps at other events in recent weeks, the 35-year-old Scot is worried about his physical condition.
“It’s a big concern for me. It’s something I have to sort out and find a solution,” Murray said. “You have to try to figure out what’s going on there.”
American Ben Shelton stunned fifth seed Casper Ruud, beating Norway’s 6-3, 6-3, while women’s world number one Iga Swiatek beat Sloane Stephens 6-4, 7-5.
Results from Wednesday’s ATP/WTA Cincinnati Open (x denotes top seed; players representing Russia and Belarus are prohibited from competing under their country’s name or flag):
Denis Shapovalov (CAN) v Tommy Paul (USA) 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Taylor Fritz (USA x11) v Nick Kyrgios (AUS) 6-3, 6-2
Andrey Rublev (x6) against Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (7/3), 6-2
Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x4) v Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-3, 6-4
Sebastian Korda (USA) v Frances Tiafoe (USA) 4-6, 6-1, 6-4
John Isner (USA) against Hubert Hurkacz (POL x8) 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (5/7), 6-2
Ben Shelton (USA) v Casper Ruud (NOR x5) 6-3, 6-3
Cameron Norrie (GBR x9) vs Andy Murray (GBR) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Félix Auger-Aliassime (CAN x7) against Alex De Minaur (AUS) 6-3, 6-2
Jannik Sinner (ITA x10) against Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 7-5, 3-1, retired
Roberto Bautista (ESP x15) vs. Marcos Giron (USA) 6-3, 6-3
Borna Coric (CRO) v Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) 7-6 (11/9), 4-6, 6-3
Iga Swiatek (POL x1) v Sloane Stephens (USA) 6-4, 7-5
Alison Riske (USA) bt Marie Bouzková (CZE) unsurprisingly
Elena Rybakina (KAZ) v Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP x8) 6-3, 6-1
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) v Paula Badosa (ESP x3) 6-7 (3/7), 6-0, 6-2
Veronika Kudermetova bt Simona Halep (ROM x15) walkover
Petra Kvitova (CZE) v Sorana Cirstea (ROM) 6-2, 6-3
Ons Jabeur (TUN x5) against Caty McNally (USA) 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (9/7)
Jessica Pegula (USA x7) v Marta Kostyuk (UK) 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2
Emma Raducanu (GBR x10) v Victoria Azarenka 6-0, 6-2
Elise Mertens (BEL) v Karolína Plíšková (CZE x14) 7-6 (7/3), 6-3
Aryna Sabalenka (x6) vs Anna Kalinskaya 6-3, 4-1, retired
Shelby Rogers (USA) bt Amanda Anisimova (USA) unsurprisingly
Zhang Shuai (CHN) v Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3, 6-4