Rafael Nadal: ‘I can not afford that, it should not happen’


Rafael Nadal kicked off the season at the United Cup, leading Spain in Sydney. A 22-time Major winner failed to score a win at the inaugural event, losing to Cameron Norrie and Alex de Minaur despite winning the opener. Rafa was a set and a break up against the Aussie before Alex bounced back and earned a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory in two hours and 42 minutes. The second set lasted 50 minutes and could have gone both ways. Nadal made an early break before losing the crucial points in the next six games to drop it 6-1. The Spaniard would love to avoid those situations in the future, hoping for a better run at the season’s first Major in Melbourne. De Minaur saved eight out of 12 break points and took Nadal’s serve six times, including that essential one at 5-5 in the final set. Rafa missed a forehand in the opener’s fifth game to fall 3-2 behind. However, he bounced back and rattled off four straight games to clinch the opener with a backhand crosscourt winner at 5-3. The Spaniard built the lead in the second set before the Aussie took charge and turned the tables. Alex seized the fourth break chance in game two with a backhand winner and extended the gap with a backhand winner in game four. De Minaur saved a break point in the next one and broke Nadal again for 5-1.

Rafael Nadal was a set and a break up against Alex de Minaur at the United Cup.

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 opportunities in game two. De Minaur denied four and closed the game to avoid an early setback. Alex delivered a break at 15 in game five and moved closer to the finish line. Nadal kept fighting and cracked a forehand crosscourt winner in the next one to pull the break back. 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 in the tenth game and brought it home at 30 for 5-5. Nadal played a terrible service game in the worst moment 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.

“I was a set and a break up. The last six games of the second set were tight, and I could have won them all. Instead, I dropped six consecutive games and can not afford that. That should not happen to me. There were some good points in the third set, but I made mistakes again. I have to fight and find my rhythm. There are two weeks until the Australian Open, and those defeats could have come at a better time. Still, it’s not very negative either; I played well at times. These two matches will help me, and I hope to start winning soon,” Rafael Nadal said.

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