Holder Rafa Nadal saved seven set points in the second set and battled back from two breaks down in the third to beat Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-3 7-6 7-5 on Tuesday in his opening match at the US Open.
Nadal was far from his best but raised his game at critical points, reeling off the last five games in succession to subdue the surprising Golubev, who came to Flushing Meadows with a 6-24 record this year.
Golubev dictated points by moving inside the baseline to slash groundstrokes into both corners and make deft use of the drop shot against the French Open champion.
Ten times grand slam winner Nadal showed his championship class in roaring back from 2-5 down in the third set after winning the second-set tiebreak 7-1.
"I was a little bit lucky to win today in straight sets," Nadal said in an on court interview after the two hour, 49 minute match. "He was a very difficult player to play. He played very fast."