Nadal launches U.S. Open quest with powerful win

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - World number one Rafa Nadal made a powerful start in his determined bid to complete a career grand slam by winning a 7-6 7-6 6-3 slugfest against Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili at the U.S. Open on Tuesday.

Showing more power than ever in his serve and looking comfortable on the fast Arthur Ashe center court, the 24-year-old Spaniard claimed the first two tiebreaks by 7-4.

Top seed Nadal, who topped 130 mph on his fastest serve, registered the first service break of the match when the 93rd-ranked Gabashvili netted an easy forehand in the seventh game.

Nadal then closed out the match with another break.

“My serve tonight worked well,” said the eight-times grand slam winner, who needs a U.S. Open title to complete a career grand slam. “Hopefully it will continue like this.

“My serve is not my best shot but I always try hard to keep improving and that’s what I’m working on all the time.”

Nadal, decked out in black with electric green shoes and accents on his shirt, served up seven aces and pounded in 67 percent of his first serves in a match that lasted nearly three hours.

“I know if I want to have chances to win here ... I need to serve really, really well, so that’s one of the things I am most focused on,” said Nadal, winner of five French Opens, two Wimbledons and one Australian Open.

Nadal, winner of this year’s French and Wimbledon championships, will next meet Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, a straight sets winner over Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina.

Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue