But the World No. 1 found his rhythm and defeated Daniel 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to reach Round 3.
Daniel, loser of seven of eight matches before arriving in New York, made a mockery of his 121 world ranking when he made the most of nearly every exchange - he even threatened to break Nadal for a third time as served for the match - and he walked away from his debut on Arthur Ashe with the respect of his illustrious opponent as well as the consolation cheers of an appreciative audience. Nadal hit back immediately with a trademark forehand winner up the line to level the second to 2-2, which was greeted by a huge fist pump and followed up by a love service hold.
A rather great start to the match for Daniel saw him earn a break point in the first game with some incredible offensive tennis, but he failed to convert as Nadal stepped up his game at the crucial moments, claiming the confidence-boosting service hold in five minutes.
He plays 59th-ranked Leonardo Mayer next. I was not able to hear the ball when hitting.
Daniel's break at 5-4 shifted the pressure to Nadal, and the Spaniard didn't have an answer as the Japanese challenger consolidated to take the opening frame in a stunner. But these were two curious performances by the virtual co-favourites in the absence of Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray. The Spaniard then comfortably served out the second set, leveling the match at one set all. It's a stupid rule that needs to be fixed.
Taro Daniel of Japan serves to Tommy Paul of the United States on day three of the U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. With the sudden surprise loss of Alexander Zverev in the second round last night, we are left in a unique situation where there isn't a top six player left in the bottom half of the draw and only one top 14 player. I enjoy it and I have unforgettable memories from this tournament and this court, because the energy is different from in other places.
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