The first week of the US Open usually has the best matches on the outer courts, as Arthur Ashe is reserved for the big star that look like they are doing exhibitions out there.
Like clockwork you will have Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal going out there and killing the competition, warming up for when they face each other late in the tournament.
However, no one gave 22 year-old Louis Pouille of France the script.
Playing out of his mind today, the No. 24 seed knocked two-time Open Champion Nadal out of the tournament in five sets, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8).
“I think he played a good match,” Nadal said. “He started so strong. I fight until the end with. There were things I could do better. Had the right attitude. I fighted right up to the last ball. But I need something else, I need something more that was not there today. I going to keep working to try to find.
“But, yes, was a very, very close match that anything could happen. Just congratulate the opponent that probably he played with better decision than me the last couple of points.”
It was all so close for the Spaniard, who was attempting to comeback from a wrist injury. In what was probably the best match of the tournament, Nadal fought back after dropping the first set and then dropped the third.
He was able to rally to force a fifth set, which Pouille won in a tiebreaker 8-6.
“When you are 4-3 in the fifth, 30-Love, is not a question of experience, no? Is a question of play a little bit better than what I did. That’s it. A couple of mistakes there. Needed to play with a little bit more calm,” Nadal said. “Is true that I don’t have lot of matches on my shoulders for the last three, four months, but even like this I lost an opportunity. That’s the real thing, no? That’s the true. I lost an opportunity to have a very good event here. I am sad for that.
“But I fighted. I can play better. I can play worst. The only thing that cannot be bad is the attitude, no? Today the attitude was great. That’s it.”
At 30, you have to wonder if Nadal’s best tennis days are behind him. Give Pouille credit. He is No. 25 in the world, but you expected Nadal to play past Labor Day.
He’s been around forever, winning the French Open at 19 and for many years was consider a clay court specialist winning at Roland Garros nine times.
However, Nadal grew into his game and won the Open in 2010 and 2013, Wimbledon twice in 2008 and 2010 and taking Melbourne in 2009.
But injuries in 2014 kept him out of the Open and last year he stayed away because of “mental” issues.
Outside of a wrist injury, which kept him out for a while, this season was supposed to be his big comeback.
“I didn’t have no one mental problem,” he said. “I was able to enjoy every practice. I was able to enjoy every match. Last year not. Last year for seven, eight months happened something strange in my mind. I was playing with stress. I was anxious. I didn’t enjoy.
“When you are not enjoying doing what you do, then you have a problem. The problems in my mental part didn’t allow me to enjoy, and this year I’m enjoying. I’m enjoying every moment. The only thing that was a negative thing is I couldn’t compete in a moment that I was playing great.”
So now it’s onto Asia for Nadal to qualify for the finals in November. Although he says when he’s healthy he can play at the high level he did in the past, but you have to wonder if Rafa Nadal’s best tennis is behind him.