Rafael Nadal through to the second round at the US Open.
Rafael Nadal through to the second round at the US Open.

Nadal sends tennis’ unluckiest man into major retirement

WORLD number one and defending US Open champion Rafael Nadal sent his close friend David Ferrer into Grand Slam retirement when his veteran compatriot was forced to quit their first round match with an injury.

Ferrer, a former world number three but now standing at a lowly 148, called it quits on a hot and humid night on Arthur Ashe Stadium when he led 4-3 with a break in the second set.

Top seed Nadal had taken the opener 6-3.

"This is my last Grand Slam," said Ferrer who was runner-up to Nadal in the 2013 French Open final.

Ferrer's Grand Slam career comes to a disappointing end; ten quarter-finals, five semi-finals, and a final. But no crown.

One of the most talented players to never win a Slam; Ferrer had the misfortune of being born into an era where Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray dominated the circuit.

It was sadly fitting that Ferrer's Grand Slam career came to an end against Nadal; the man largely repsonsible for the glaring '0' on his record.

Ferrer lost to Nadal in his lone Grand Slam final appearance, a 2013 French Open straight sets defeat.

And on four of his six trips to the quarter-finals or deeper at Roland Garros, Ferrer fell to his superior compatriot.

"I have great memories of this tournament and I am just sorry that I couldn't finish it tonight," Ferrer said.

The 36-year-old will play his last tournament on home ground in Madrid next year.

"I am very sorry for David and sad for him," said Nadal.

"We are close friends and have shared great moments -- the Roland Garros final and Davis Cup wins.

"He is one of the greatest players to have come from our country. He's a great person and great player." Nadal, chasing his 18th Grand Slam title, will face Canada's Vasek Pospisil for a place in the last 32.

Argentine 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro, the third seed, had no trouble dismissing American qualifier Donald Young 6-0 6-3 6-4 in another evening fixture.

The day's action on Arthur Ashe Stadium began with Swiss wildcard Stan Wawrinka conjuring up some of his old Flushing Meadows magic to sweep past eighth-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 6-2 7-5.

After winning the US Open in 2016 Wawrinka was unable to defend his title last year after two surgeries on his left knee.

But the Swiss, 101st in the world rankings, looked right at home on a steamy Monday as he opened his account with a ruthless performance against one of the title contenders.

"I'm improving day by day," Wawrinka said.

"I'm improving tournament after tournament, match after match. "And I can see that the last tournaments, it went really high, from struggling in the match, to competing at really high level.

"So I'm really happy with that." South African fifth seed Kevin Anderson, last year's finalist, rallied to outlast Ryan Harrison 7-6 (7-4) 5-7 4-6 6-3 6-4 in a four hour and 14 minute slugfest while Austrian ninth seed Dominic Thiem accounted for Mirza Basic 6-3 6-1 6-4.

Other opening day winners in the men's draw were seeded Americans John Isner and Jack Sock, Canadian seeds Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov, Greek 15th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, Croatian 20th seed Borna Coric and veteran Spanish 31st seed Fernando Verdasco.