Rafael Nadal was back on the court Saturday for the first time in five days, beating Hyeon Chung 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the fourth round for his 13th straight Grand Slam tournament. Nadal hadn't played since Tuesday, when he beat John Millman in straight sets in the opening round.
Nadal was forced to retire from his match against Juan Martin del Potro in last year's U.S. Open semifinals because of knee pain that has been an issue for the 33-year-old Spaniard on hard courts. He had to pull out again before a semifinal match against Roger Federer earlier this year in Indian Wells that then kept him out of Miami.
But he won a hard-court title in Montreal earlier this month and said he felt healthy coming into this tournament. He then got an unscheduled night off Thursday when Thanasi Kokkinakis had to pull out with a shoulder injury, and will have spent only slightly more than four hours on court through the first eight days of the tournament.
"But for me personally, in some way, I will prefer to play the match," Nadal said. "In some way is true that you save energy. So you never know what's the best thing."
After his US Open title defense was cut short last year because of injury, perhaps an easy first week was exactly what Rafael Nadal needed.
On the other hand, it could leave him underprepared for the tougher times ahead.
"You never know what's better or worse, no?" Nadal said.
Nadal will next play Marin Cilic in the round of 16 on Monday.