US Open: Rafael Nadal cruises into the last-16
South Korean Chung Hyeon swept aside as Spaniard sets sights on his fourth title
Rafael Nadal is into the last-16 of the US Open. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA
The Spanish second seed made light work of South Korean qualifier Chung, winning 6-3 6-4 6-2 — a victory which took him a minute shy of two hours.
With fitness doubts hanging over defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic, and third seed Roger Federer looking susceptible in his earlier rounds, Nadal must sense a huge opportunity to add to his three titles here.
The draw has certainly been kind to him with both his great rivals on the other side, while second-round opponent Thanasi Kokkinakis was forced to withdraw through injury.
It meant that while Chung, a former Australian Open semi-finalist who has slipped to 170 in the world due to injuries, had already spent 11 hours on court this week, Nadal had spent just two.
“I was sorry for Thanasi on the second day,” said Nadal. “It’s honestly tough for a player like him, that he’s very young and he already had plenty of issues, physical issues. Tough, and I hope it’s not too bad.
“But for me personally, in some way, I will prefer to play the match. In some way it is true that you save energy. So you never know what’s the best thing.
“I had the first three months of the season too many issues again. But then it’s true that since Barcelona, things have been improving.
“I was able to fix a little bit the body and play more or less with freedom of movements.
“That’s given me the chance to compete at the highest level again. And most important thing, enjoy the sport. That’s the main thing in this stage of my career more than anything else.
“So here I am to try my best and I’m going to put my 100 per cent to try to be ready for the next round.”
Nadal will meet 2014 champion Marin Cilic in the last 16.
Croatian Cilic won the battle of the big servers, knocking out American 14th seed John Isner in four sets.
Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios’ eventful run in New York was ended by Andrey Rublev.
In the space of a few days, Kyrgios prompted an ATP investigation for his comments about the governing body, got into hot water about a motto on his collar and criticised a TV commentator — only to be interviewed by him hours later before Saturday night’s match.
But the sideshow is over after Russian Rublev took two tie-breaks and won 6-3 in the third.
Sixth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany dropped the first set to Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia, but made it through in four.