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U.S. Open: Rafael Nadal struggles but beats Andrey Golubev

August 30, 2011 |  7:34 pm

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Rafael Nadal, the defending U.S. Open champion and this year's second-seeded player, didn't turn in a starring performance Tuesday night, but he did enough.

Nadal struggled some Andrey Golubev, who was ranked 98thin the world and who had gone through a stretch of losing 17 straight matches this season. Golubev overpowered the Spaniard in parts of this first-round match at Arthur Ashe Stadium before losing to Nadal, 6-3, 7-6 (1), 7-5.

Golubev, who is from Kazakhstan, was leading Nadal, 4-2, in the second set after breaking the Spaniard at love and was making Nadal cranky by pounding winners from both sides and bringing Nadal forward with tricky drop shots.

And even when it seemed Nadal was safely ahead, Golubev struck a service return so hard that Nadal didn’t seem to see the ball. That shot gave Golubev an unexpected early service break in the third set that put him ahead, 2-1, and he eventually was up a double break, 5-2, in the third before errors started happening.

Finally, Nadal finished off the tricky first-rounding with an authoritative passing shot.

“I was a little lucky to win in straight sets,” Nadal said. “He was a very difficult player to play. He played very fast.”

RELATED:

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U.S. Open: Novak Djokovic wins easy opener; Donald Young too

U.S. Open: Carolina Wozniacki wins one, talks Rory McIlroy too

U.S. Open: Venus Williams wins first match since Wimbledon

-- Diane Pucin, reporting from New York

Photo: Rafael Nadal returns a shot during his first-round match at the U.S. Open on Tuesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke / MCT

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