‘Not easy’: Nadal gets 2020 season underway with a win

Agence France-Presse
'It was a tough first matchup of the season,' says Rafael Nadal as the world No. 1 kicks off the year where he plans to equal Roger Federer’s Grand Slam record

 

TOUGH CHALLENGE. Rafael Nadal fends off Nikoloz Basilashvili's valiant effort. Photo by Tony Ashby/AFP

 

PERTH, Australia – World No. 1 Rafael Nadal overcame sluggish serving to start his season with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Nikoloz Basilashvili on the second day of the inaugural ATP Cup on Saturday, January 4.  

The 19-time Grand Slam winner clinched the tie for Group B favorite Spain against Georgia after world No. 9 Roberto Bautista Agut downed unheralded Aleksandre Metreveli 6-0, 6-0 in 71 minutes.

Nadal was made to work in the contest lasting 1 hour and 49 minutes, his first of the season as he eyes equaling Roger Federer’s record Grand Slam tally – of 20 titles – at the Australian Open late this month.

“It was a tough first matchup of the season. It was not an easy start,” Nadal said. “I had some mistakes but was able to close it out.”

It was his first match since he spearheaded Spain’s Davis Cup title on home soil alongside Bautista Agut in November. 

“We had great experiences playing on the team and representing our country and here we are again. We want to try our best,” he said.

Nadal started slowly against Basilashvili and was broken in the opening game to silence the near capacity crowd in his first-ever match in Perth.

But he bounced back immediately and gained the break with a sizzling winner down the line.  

World No. 26 Basilashvili, who had been soundly beaten by Nadal twice previously, was undaunted and impressively countered on the baseline to stay in the contest.

Nadal, however, made his move with a break in the 8th game to gain control and draw first blood shortly after. 

His momentum continued as he stormed out to a 5-2 lead in the 2nd set but was unable to serve it out twice before eventually overcoming Basilashvili’s spirited challenge

In the earlier match, Bautista Agut expectedly crushed world No. 679 Metreveli, who was playing his first match on the ATP Tour.

Metreveli, 26, started enterprisingly and had a golden opportunity to get on the board early but lost a marathon 15-minute second game on serve. It was one-way traffic from there as Bautista Agut took command with pinpoint groundstrokes to rattle his inconsistent opponent.

“I asked players who knew him for information because I had never seen him play,” Bautista Agut said. “I was focusing on my game and I played a great match.”  

Japan also started strongly after sweeping Uruguay in the earlier Group B tie. World No. 73 Yoshihito Nishioka thrashed higher-ranked Pablo Cuevas with a 6-0, 6-1 rout in just 54 minutes.

Nishioka put on a masterclass over a dispirited Cuevas, but was helped by his lackluster opponent who did not hit a winner during a grim 1st set.

The left-handed Nishioka caused the world No. 45 problems and clinched the tie after Go Soeda put Japan ahead with a comfortable 6-1, 6-3 victory over Martin Cuevas, Pablo’s younger brother.

Soeda had replaced world No. 13 Kei Nishikori, who withdrew from the tournament and the Australian Open with an elbow injury. – Rappler.com

 

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