US Open 2009: Rafael Nadal vs. Nicolas Kiefer

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Tonight third-seed Rafael Nadal takes on Germany’s Nicolas Kiefer on Arthur Ashe Stadium in the second round of this year’s edition of the U.S. Open.

The 23-year-old Spaniard has made a successful return to Grand Slam tennis by beating France’s Richard Gasquet, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, in his opening match. Rafa was back in action after knee problems sidelined him for a couple of months and stopped him from defending his Wimbledon crown.

In Nadal’s absence at SW19, Roger Federer established a benchmark for excellence by winning his 15th Grand Slam trophy. Also during this event, Scottish tennis ace Andy Murray broke up the long-running Federer-Nadal rankings duopoly by rising to No. 2.

Kiefer is a veteran of major tournaments. When the 32-year-old burst onto the scene in 1997 at Wimbledon by making the quarterfinals, he actually looked like he might have been a big part of tennis’ future. He also won a silver medal in men’s doubles with partner Rainer Schüttler at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

However, nothing huge became of Kiefer and he has sunk to 129th in the world rankings.

UPDATE: Rafa was given a severe test by Kiefer before coming through in four sets to reach the next round of the U.S. Open. The Spaniard beat the German 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.