Rafael Nadal has lost six of the last seven matches since the US Open’s fourth round. The Spaniard is yet to score a win in 2023 following two tight losses at the United Cup in Sydney. Nadal battled for over two hours and 40 minutes in both encounters, winning the opening set but falling in sets two and three.
Nadal faced Alex de Minaur on Monday and suffered a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 defeat in two hours and 42 minutes. The Aussie made a strong comeback in the second set and delivered a late break in the decider to celebrate his second consecutive top-5 triumph.
Nadal admitted his rival played better in the crucial points, especially in the closing stages. Alex defended eight out of 12 break points and broke Rafa six times, including that essential break at 5-5 in the final set. Nadal wasted a game point at 2-2 in the first set and experienced a break after a wayward forehand.
The Spaniard pulled the break back in game six and gained confidence. He secured another return game at 4-3 from 40-0 down to build the advantage. Rafa cracked a backhand crosscourt winner in game nine to rattle off four straight games and close the opener.
The second set saw only seven games, and they needed over 50 minutes to finish it after numerous deuces. Rafa delivered his third straight break for a 6-3, 1-0 advantage. He failed to bring the second game home, and the Aussie seized the fourth break chance with a backhand winner for 1-1.
Alex pushed strong on the return in game four and clinched the fourth break point with a backhand winner for 3-1. De Minaur saved a break point in the next one and closed it with a touchy volley winner to stay in front. Nadal lost serve again in game six after a wild forehand to fall further behind.
Rafael Nadal lost the final three games against Alex de Minaur in Sydney.
The Aussie climbed back from 0-40 in game seven and seized the second set point after forcing Nadal’s mistake to rattle off six straight games!
Rafa made a better start in the final set, serving well and earning break chances in game two. De Minaur denied four and closed the game after Nadal’s loose forehand to avoid an early setback. Alex delivered a break at 15 in game five after Rafa’s routine backhand error and moved closer to the finish line.
However, Nadal cracked a forehand crosscourt winner in the sixth game to pull the break back and extend the battle. The Spaniard held at love in the ninth game for 5-4 and left his opponent to serve to stay in the match. Alex showed no sign of nerves in the tenth game, bringing it home at 30 for 5-5.
In the worst moment, Nadal played a terrible service game and got broken at love in game 11 after a forehand error. De Minaur served for the victory at 6-5 and fired a service winner for a hold at love and a career-best win in his hometown.
“Alex played better in the crucial moments; that made the difference. I had my chances to win, but I made costly mistakes when I could not afford them. You can not win a match like this while doing that,” Rafael Nadal said.