NEW YORK — As Rafael Nadal stood near the net at the U.S. Open after winning his first Grand Slam match in three months Monday, he unraveled the thick wrap of white tape protecting his left wrist then clutched at that arm.
There were matches that provided more drama or surprises on Day 1 at Flushing Meadows.
There was 20th-seeded John Isner's comeback from two sets down to edge Frances Tiafoe, 18, at the new Grandstand.
A first-round loss by Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza's complaints about having trouble breathing after dropping the first set of a match she won in three.
Nothing, though, was as meaningful as how 14-time major champion Nadal's wrist felt during and after a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Denis Istomin.
Nadal said the pain is gone from the part of his body that whips those violent, topspin-heavy forehands that are the key to his success. But he still is working on feeling comfortable hitting down-the-line forehands, in particular.
"Not easy to go 2½ months out of competition, in the middle of the season, without hitting a forehand," Nadal said. "I need to have the confidence again with my wrist."
Both Nadal and his coach, Uncle Toni, described the way Nadal changed the way he hits a forehand during the Rio Games to try to avoid pain.
Both said things are improving. But as Toni noted: "We need a little time."