Rafael Nadal has been in all kinds of trouble since the last year’s Wimbledon. The Spaniard withdrew from the All England Club ahead of the semi-final, playing only nine matches by the end of the season and losing four consecutive encounters for the first time since 2009!
Nadal is physically fine but can not find the form at the start of 2023. Rafa lost both matches at the United Cup, falling to Cameron Norrie and Alex de Minaur for the career-worst start! Nadal will give his best to raise the level ahead of the title defense at the Australian Open, lacking victories that would give him a boost.
Rafa disliked the conditions in Sydney, although he liked some elements of his game despite two losses. Nadal kicked off the season against Cameron Norrie and experienced a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat. Cameron bounced back after the opener to topple world no.
2 and deliver his career-best victory. Rafa faced Alex de Minaur in the second match and made another good start. The Aussie climbed back and prevailed 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 in two hours and 42 minutes. De Minaur saved eight out of 12 break points and delivered six return games, including the crucial one at 5-5 in the third set.
They traded breaks in the opener’s games five and six. Nadal took charge and claimed four straight games from 3-2 down to win it 6-3 with a backhand crosscourt winner in game nine. The second set lasted 50 minutes and kicked off with the Spaniard’s break.
With no room for errors, the Sydney native clinched three straight breaks to grab the set 6-1 and gain a boost ahead of the decider.
Rafael Nadal hopes for a better run at the Australian Open.
Rafa made a better start in the final set, serving well and earning break chances in game two.
De Minaur denied four and closed it to avoid an early setback. Alex seized a break at 15 in game five and moved closer to the finish line. However, Nadal cracked a forehand crosscourt winner in the next one to pull it back and extend the battle.
The Spaniard held at love in the ninth game for 5-4, with his opponent serving to stay in the match. Alex showed no sign of nerves and took the tenth game home for 5-5. Nadal played a terrible service game in the worst moment and got broken at love after a forehand error to find himself 6-5 behind.
De Minaur served in game 12 and fired a service winner for a hold at love and a career-best victory. “I spent almost six hours on the court in two matches, and I need more battles like this. I have not played too many encounters in the past six or seven months, and it’s always good when you play competitive duels.
Victories make the process faster, but I have to keep fighting. My level was high sometimes, especially from my backhand wind and during changes of direction from my forehand. Putting everything in perspective, the conditions are not ideal for me.
The ball was dead today and did not help much with my spin. My rival took advantage of flatter shots, but I’m not looking for excuses. I had some good moments today, but it was not enough,” Rafael Nadal said.