World No. 3 Rafael Nadal took the court Wednesday for his first match since losing to Novak Djokovic in the French Open semifinals. Wild card Jack Sock looked to spoil his anticipated return.
Nadal cruised to a one-set lead, taking the first set, 6-2, over the American by claiming 13 of 27 points on return.
The pro-Rafa crowd didn’t hold back in vocalizing their support, but Sock met one heckler head on en route to winning set two, 6-4.
Down a break and showing signs of pain related to the left foot injury that kept him off the tour for two months, Nadal dug in to give the crowd their money’s worth in the third set.
The 20-time major champ surged in a winner-take-all tiebreaker to prevail, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (1), after three hours and four minutes. He admitted to Tennis Channel afterwards, “The pain is bothering me.”