Nadal played emphatic tennis, returning Philippoussis’ big serves—when he could get his racket on them—with precision and regularly passing the big Australian at the net. The Spaniard’s punishing groundstrokes pushed his less-mobile opponent around the court. Nadal even ventured to net successfully, winning 10 of 12 approaches. Nadal broke serve just once per set, but that was plenty for a comfortable victory.
Philippoussis’ game is based on his massive serve, and that was again what kept him close. He nailed 19 aces and won 94% of his first-serve points but was less successful on the second ball, winning only a quarter of the points. The Australian, unable to connect on any of his four break-point chances, could not make a dent on Nadal’s less potent serve..
Oddly enough, the turning point for Nadal came in the very first game. Nadal elected to receive serve, and he marched on court and promptly broke Philippoussis at love. Nadal never looked in trouble after consolidating that early break.
Philippoussis’ inability to hold serve in that opening game—he watched Nadal crush a couple of returns and crack two passing shots—signaled that his vaunted delivery would not be enough to hold off the scramblin’ Mallorcan.
Stats Of The Match
Nadal played an extremely clean match, notching just 10 unforced errors over the course of two hours and three sets, and he struck a very convincing total of 34 winners. But the telling stat was his ability to convert on break points, taking advantage of three of four chances.
Philippoussis hit more winners, 46, as well as unforced errors, 35, but it was his inability to penetrate Nadal’s serve that ultimately prevented the Australian from extending the match. Philippoussis had just as many break-point chances as his opponent but went 0 for 4.
Nadal moves on to Round 2, where he’ll meet another unseeded but surely less dangerous player than Philippoussis. Nadal’s section of the draw is not especially threatening, with only one seed and a host of clay-courters remaining. He is looking to advance far beyond his previous best showing (3rd Round) at the US Open.
Philippoussis continues on his quest to rededicate himself to tennis at age 29, after a series of injuries and somewhat wavering commitment to the game. Though he won a title earlier this year—his first since 2002—his ATP ranking has dropped to 113 in the world.
View From The Crowd
The first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, on the morning after a total washout of Tuesday’s matches, began very cool and overcast. Nadal had much more crowd support than in previous years, evidence of his continued rise and expanded presence in the game. By the time Nadal strode to a straight-sets victory, a welcome sun had appeared on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.