The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Racket attack: Rafael Nadal suffers self-inflicted nose injury in U.S. Open win

Rafael Nadal lies on the court after hitting himself in the face with his racket on Thursday. (Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images)
2 min

Rafael Nadal was bloodied but not defeated during his second-round match Thursday at the U.S. Open, a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 win over Fabio Fognini that was delayed for about five minutes in the fourth set after Nadal managed to cut himself on the bridge of his nose with his own racket.

The freak accident occurred during the first point of the fourth game in the final set, with Nadal leading 3-0 and on his way to improving to 21-0 in Grand Slam matches this year. On a backhand follow-through, Nadal’s racket rebounded off the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium and hit him in the nose. The 36-year-old immediately dropped his racket and placed both hands on his head before lying down and receiving medical treatment for the self-inflicted laceration. He returned with a bandage on his nose and lost the fourth game before winning the next three to advance.

As Serena Williams is proving, retiring from tennis can be complicated

Nadal told reporters the incident was “a shock" and he initially thought he had broken his nose. He described feeling “a little bit out of the world" in the moments after his racket smacked him in the face.

“Little bit dizzy at the beginning, little bit painful,” Nadal said during an on-court interview.

Fognini, who defeated Nadal at the 2015 U.S. Open, went over to check on his opponent during the stoppage in play.

“He told me everything was OK," Fognini said after the match. “I hope it’s nothing serious."

Nadal posted a selfie on his Instagram story with the thumbs-up emoji and an “all good” message after the win. He managed to joke about the bizarre injury, saying that while this had never happened to him with a tennis racket, it had with a golf club.

“I was little bit in shock,” Nadal said when asked during his post-match interview about his ability to play through pain. “I know that when I come back on court I going to be in trouble for a while. … Tennis is a lot about moments. The most important thing in this game is when you are playing bad or when the opponent is playing too good, don’t be too far on the score. When you are playing very well, create an advantage, no? It’s about making the things happens in the right moments. Today I was not doing that for a while. Then I think I started to compete.”

Nadal has dropped the opening set in both of his matches this week before rebounding to win the next three. He will face France’s Richard Gasquet in the third round on Saturday.

Ava Wallace contributed to this report from New York.