Rafael Nadal started the season on the ATP level for the first time in 2004. The Spaniard has experienced only three losses in the season’s opening match in the previous two decades, with the latest coming a few days ago against Cameron Norrie.
The 17-year-old Nadal kicked off the 2004 season in Chennai and suffered a 7-6, 6-4 loss to Thierry Ascione in the first round. The Frenchman beat the Spaniard in an hour and 37 minutes, winning two points more than Rafa and prevailing in the crucial moments.
Nadal lost serve twice and dropped the tie break 7-5 to find himself on the losing side. Eleven years later, Nadal kicked off the season in Doha and experienced a tough 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Michael Berrer in Doha. Nadal made a great start before the German took charge in sets two and three and sealed the deal in an hour and 56 minutes.
Berrer did not lose serve in sets two and three, stealing Nadal’s serve once in each to emerge at the top. Rafa’s third loss at the start of the season came at the inaugural United Cup on December 31. Nadal won the opener before falling to Cameron Norrie 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 44 minutes.
Norrie saved five out of six break points and grabbed two breaks from 11 opportunities. The Briton tried to dictate the pace and control the rallies, playing well in the crucial moments to topple a 22-time Major winner. The returners had no chances in the encounter’s first five games before Cameron missed a game point at 2-3.
Rafa grabbed a break with a forehand crosscourt winner that pushed him 4-2 in front.
Rafael Nadal lost the season’s opening match three times.
The Spaniard saved a break point with a forehand winner in the next one and brought it home after deuces for 5-2.
Nadal served for the set in game nine and fired a service winner for 6-3 in 52 minutes. The second set offered five commanding holds, and Norrie settled into a fine rhythm behind the initial shot. It gave him a boost to push hard on the return, creating three break chances at 3-2.
Nadal saved them and defended the fourth break point with a service winner. Cameron seized the fifth break opportunity after Rafa’s loose backhand to open a 4-2 gap. The Briton defended a break point in the next one with a service winner and created two set points on the return at 5-2.
Nadal denied them and held to prolong the set and his chances. Norrie held in game nine to wrap up the set and introduce a decider after an hour and 37 minutes. The final set lasted over an hour, and Cameron prevailed with a single break.
Rafa saved a break point in game three with an unreturned serve and faced more troubles at 2-2. A 22-time Major winner fell behind when Norrie cracked a backhand down the line winner that pushed him 3-2 up and closer to the finish line.
Cameron saved two break points in the sixth game and another at 4-3 with a forehand winner. The Briton served for the victory at 5-4 and landed a forehand down the line winner for a hold at love and the triumph.