Rafa Nadal made a smooth start to his bid to capture the one grand slam that has eluded him when he wore down Russia's Teymuraz Gabashvili 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 in the first round of the US Open on Tuesday.
Dressed menacingly in an all black outfit, Nadal had to dig deep to see off the stubborn Gabashvili after three hours of intense shotmaking from both men at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Neither player dropped serve in the opening two sets but Nadal's superior big-match experience came through when it mattered and he won both tiebreakers before Gabashvili finally cracked in the third set.
"I prefer to play one hour and 10 minutes," Nadal said. "Everybody wants to win easier.