Rafael Nadal hasn’t had the easiest of summer's after winning an unprecedented tenth French Open title in June.
A fourth round defeat on the grass at Wimbledon followed by premature exits in Montreal and Cincinnati put a paltry dent in the Spaniard's ominous aura ahead of this year’s US Open.
Yet, Nadal, a two-time champion in New York, still arrives in the Big Apple as the world number one, bidding to win his first major outside of Paris for the first time since 2013.
In his opening match, a 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 6-2 victory over world number 85 Dusan Lajovic, the Spaniard looked a little tentative in the early exchanges
However, after squeezing through a gripping first set tie break, he began to strike the ball with devastating force.
Nadal closed out the contest in two hours and 16 minutes, and will now met either Japan’s Taro Daniel or American Tommy Paul in the second round.
Blistering start from Lajovic
Lajovic had encountered Nadal once before, when the Serb picked up just four games on the clay at Roland Garros in 2014.
Even so, Lajovic made a blistering start here, breaking Nadal in the third game of the match.
For the first half an hour or so, Lajovic rarely missed a ball, stunning the Spaniard with a barrage of powerful forehands.
Even Lajovic’s single-handed backhand, usually a vulnerability against Nadal’s heavy topspin, was holding up well, as the Spaniard regularly dropped the ball short from the baseline.
Yet, when serving for the opening set at 5-4, cracks began to appear in the Serb’s game.
First set tie break prove pivotal
After losing the first point on a net cord, Lajovic made a couple of loose errors before losing his serve to 0.
In the first set tie break, the Serb netted two midcourt forehands to go down 3-0, yet he responded with a couple of scorching winners to draw level at five points apiece.
Eventually, though, Nadal muscled his way through and the result never looked in doubt after that.
Nadal pulls away
Under the roof of the Arthur Ashe Stadium, the atmosphere was abruptly punched after the opening set drama and Nadal quickly stepped on the accelerator.
Lajovic subsequently surrendered his serve twice at the start of the second set, which Nadal sealed in a mere 35 minutes.
By that stage, the Spaniard was ripping his forehand like we’ve come to expect and giving little away from the back of the court.
Nadal’s first serve also appeared flatter and zippier, similar to when he won the title here in 2010.
The pair continued to engage in some entertaining rallies, though the third set was as comfortable as the second in terms of the scoreline.
An early test, but Nadal is through unscathed.