But victory came with a scary moment in the final set that left the 22-time Grand Slam champion bloodied.
As the Spaniard stretched to return a backhand to Fognini, Nadal’s racquet bounced off the court, accidentally hitting him in the face.
Nadal immediately grabbed his nose and dropped his racquet, losing the point. He lay down on the court next to the referee’s chair and removed his hand from his nose, revealing the blood that had started to flow.
He needed medical time off to pay attention to the injury and later returned to finish the set. After the win, Nadal downplayed the injury saying he felt ‘a bit of pain, to be honest, but good’.
“(It) was just a strong blow. At first I thought I had (broken) my nose because it was a shock at the beginning. It was very painful,” explained Nadal.
“I’ve lost a bit of that – I don’t know how to say it in English – but a bit of the feeling of my head. It’s about being a little bit out of the world.
“I don’t know, doesn’t seem to be (broke). I am not sure yet. I dont know. I think it’s getting bigger and bigger.”
He joked with a smile, “No, that’s just a shock, somehow I deserved to play so badly for a while!”
As well as coming back from a bloody nose, Nadal had to recover from what was rarely a poor start.
The Spaniard made 27 unforced errors in the opening two sets, dropping serve five times, four of them in a row. He called it “one of the worst starts, probably ever”.
“But that’s part of the game. You have to stay humble, you have to accept the situation. It hasn’t been an easy month for me, so I know things like this can happen. It’s another opportunity for me. I’m still alive after a game like this. That means a lot.”
The win means he will face Richard Gasquet in the third round of the US Open. Nadal has a well-known record against the Frenchman, winning all 17 clashes.