Rafael Nadal opened a second straight match with a bagel set, but was made to work for an Acapulco quarter-final victory over Tommy Paul. The 6-0, 7-6(5) win sets up a rematch with Daniil Medvedev after the Spaniard’s five-set Australian Open comeback earned him a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title.
For both men, the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC is their first event since Melbourne.
Against Paul on Thursday, Nadal dropped just 10 points in the opening set but met real resistance beyond that in hot and humid conditions. The fourth seed dictated early before the American began to use his athleticism to great effect, regularly getting the better of rallies in a second set that lasted over 90 minutes.
“I think I played one of the best sets since a long time ago,” Nadal said of the opener. “I played fantastic in the first set. In the beginning of the second I made a couple of mistakes, and then he started playing better and better. The set became a little bit crazy with a lot of breaks.”
With Paul up a break 2-1 in the second, a string of four games against serve kept the American out in front. The action heated up as Paul used a flamboyant volley finish on his way to a second break of the set. Nadal later answered with a hot shot of his own, firing a trademark on-the-run forehand pass, but it was not enough to prevent Paul from breaking again for 4-3.
Nadal broke for the sixth and final time in the match to stop his opponent from serving out the set, then saved two break points in a pair of lengthy rallies to edge ahead for the first time in the frame at 6-5. It was Paul’s turn to save two break points, which doubled as match points, in the 12th game.
Down 0-2 to start the tie-break, Nadal won four straight points to take a lead he would never relinquish.
Previewing the semi-final showdown against Medvedev, Nadal was full of praise for the soon-to-be World No. 1: “Everybody knows how difficult it is to play against Daniil. I know I have to play at my highest level if I want to have any chance, and that’s what I’m going to try. I have to play my game.
“Everybody knows how difficult the final was in Australia. Tomorrow is going to be another battle. I know he’s playing well, plenty of confidence… I am excited to play that match.”