Us Open: Rafael Nadal starts slow, finishes strong

Even after 858 wins and 15 grand slam titles, Rafa Nadal still suffers from bouts of nervousness and it showed in Saturday's 6-7 (3) 6-3 6-1 6-4 third-round win against Argentine Leonardo Mayer at the U.S Open.

Top seed Pliskova, the runner-up in 2016, triumphed 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 but was forced to save a match point in the 10th game of the second set and recover from a break down in the decider.

"You are under stress when you see that you have opportunities nearly in every game, and you are not able to convert it", Nadal speaking on the topic of pressure on break points.

He dropped just five more games on his way to a last-16 meeting with Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov. "I may not have got another chance", said the 25-year-old, who will face American Jennifer Brady for a place in the quarter-finals.

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"You need matches like this", said Nadal. I hope that last three sets can be a good turning point for me because, in my opinion, I played much better than the two previous days later in the match. I played very smart with my slice. I already won three matches in a row. I changed more forehands down the line, hitting some good backhands later. "That's important news for me", he added.

"I know I have a tough opponent [Dolgopolov] out there now, tricky one, because he's going to play aggressive, he's very tough, he has a lot of talent, and he's playing well".

With up and down form on the way in, questions over his health and being in the same half of the draw as Roger Federer, Nadal needed to make a statement early and he did that in the first round against Dusan Lajovic with an easy win in straight sets. "So for me it's another opportunity to compete, try to compete better than what I did".

Mayer courageously broke Nadal for the first time in the entire match, though, and consolidated with a hold to put the pressure back on the overwhelming favorite.

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The 15-time Grand Slam Champion, who owns a tour-leading 52 match wins this year, will look to reach the quarter-finals in NY for the first time since 2013 when he faces Alexandr Dolgopolov.

"For me was not a slow start", Nadal said to media. "I know I can not play very well always, and not the whole match".

Dolgopolov, who is under investigation for suspicious betting activity in a match he played in at the Winston-Salem Open last week, defeated Serbian Viktor Troicki on Saturday.

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