Two-time US Open champion Nadal was forced to miss last year’s event due to injury, but it seems the biggest ailment he’s suffering from now is a lack of confidence. The No. 8 seed has struggled with the timing of his serve, and his ground strokes have landed shorter than in recent years, allowing his opponents more time to strike. Despite a disappointing summer hard-court season this year, Nadal still remains a player that nobody wants to face, and his unwavering tenacity during matches means he can never be counted out.
But rather than a cushy draw that will allow him to work his way into form, Nadal will start things off against 18-year-old Coric. The talented Croatian beat Nadal last fall in their only career meeting and also scored a win over Andy Murray at the beginning of this year. His red-hot form has cooled off somewhat since then, but his strong defense makes him a stern test for anyone struggling for form.
Nadal has far more big-match experience at the majors than his opponent, which will require that Coric get off to a strong start in order to remove any potential nerves. But the longer this match goes, Nadal’s mental toughness and conditioning – and the rowdy Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd – will continue to pull the match momentum in his favor.