Rafael Nadal Overcomes Fernando Verdasco Test To Set Up Federer Clash - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Overcomes Fernando Verdasco Test To Set Up Federer Clash

Joshua Coase

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Rafael Nadal. Photo: zimbio.com

Rafael Nadal safely made his way through to the fourth round in Indian Wells after a hard fought 6-3, 7-5 victory over fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the heat of the day in the California desert.

 

The opening half of the first set was highly competitive but a break down on serve led to a loss of confidence for Verdasco as the first set ran away from him. Nadal squandered an early break advantage in the second set, but seven double faults in all and only managing to win three of 13 points on second serve came back to bite his opponent late on in the contest.

The two Spaniards have shared many great battles in the past and met for a 19th time, the second year in a row at this event. Nadal won that last encounter 6-0, 7-6(9), but lost to his compatriot for only the third time when they met prior to that at the Australian Open.

Both players looked more than up for the fight and started off strongly on serve, with Verdasco getting pushed to deuce once on serve being the only test for the servers in the opening six games.

Nadal raised his level in the eighth game after winning a crucial opening point following a superb inside out forehand cross court which Verdasco could not retrieve. A couple of unforced errors from the world number 29 and a scintillating backhand down the line winner from the 14-time Grand Slam champion secured a break to love and put Nadal in the driving seat.

That streak of points was part of a run which saw Nadal win 12 of the last 13 points in the set to seal it 6-3 with just over half an hour played.

It appeared as though Verdasco was fading away and struggling in the heat as the first set rather petered out, but the 33-year-old responded. After holding serve, the former top-10 player worked his way back to 30-30, earning his first real look at attempting to break Nadal’s serve. After the world number 29 went for an ambitious forehand winner, which went well long, his opponent was stung into action, holding to level at a game apiece.

After working hard to make an impact early in the set, Verdasco failed to take advantage of his game points on serve, allowing Nadal to move to break point. An untimely fourth double fault handed the fifth seed a break of serve and a significant advantage in the match.

With the lead in hand the Spanish number one threw in a surprisingly poor service game, suddenly making countless unforced errors as he dropped serve to love to relinquish the break. The mistakes continued from the former champion in the next game as the 26th seed made it eight points in a row, taking a 3-2 lead.

Nadal had to come through another test on serve in the eighth game down 15-30 and was pushed to deuce but managed to survive to keep himself in the second set. After missing an opportunity to break the Verdasco serve in the following game, the fifth seed got what he desired in game eleven after another ill-timed double fault from the 33-year-old to hand the former champion the chance to serve for the match.

Despite only winning 70% of points behind his first serve in this set compared to 94% in the first, Nadal was able to close out the match at the first time of asking and secure his 16th win over his compatriot 6-3, 7-5.

Up next for the Spaniard, a highly anticipated fourth round clash with Roger Federer, who saw off Steve Johnson 7-6(3), 7-6(4).

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Fabio Fognini beats Guido Pella in straight sets to reach the fourth round in Melbourne

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Fabio Fognini beat Guido Pella 7-6 (7-0) 6-2 6-3 to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open in Melbourne. The Italian star converted five of his six break points to close out the match after 2 hours and nine minutes.

 

Fognini saved two break points in the first set with a forehand and a backhand and held his serve. The Italian star did not convert a break point in a long seventh game. Both players went on serve to set up a tie-break. Fognini did not drop a single point to cruise through to a 7-0 win.

In the second set Fognini earned a crucial break in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. He held his serve on the second deuce after saving a break point. The 2019 Monte-Carlo champion sealed the second set with another break with a forehand return winner.

Fognini earned a break lead in the fourth game of the decisive set. Pella broke straight back in the fifth game. Both traded breaks again in the sixth and seventh games. Fognini broke for the third time and converted his second match point with a serve up the T.

He is also the 12th player to come back from two sets down at all four Grand Slam tournaments.

With his five-set victories over Reilly Opelka and Jordan Thompson in the first two matches Fognini made history on Wednesday when the “Come-back king” became the first player to win back-to-back Australian Open matches in final set tie-breaks.

“I am so happy to be in the fourth round again in Australia. Now it’s time to recover. I played a really solid game against a really tough opponent. I am happy with the performance”, said Fognini.

Fognini set up a fourth round match against 2018 Australian Open quarter finalist Tennys Sandgren, who beat Sam Querrey 6-4 6-4 6-4 after 1 hour and 52 minutes. Sandgren fended off nine break points and converted just 2 of his 14 break point chances. Two years ago Sandgen beat Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem en route to reaching his first quarter final at a Grand Slam event.

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Marin Cilic prevails over Roberto Bautista Agut in five-set thriller in Melbourne

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Marin Cilic overcame Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-0 5-7 6-3 after 4 hours and 10 minutes to score his first top 10 win since the 2018 US Open, when he beat David Goffin.

 

Cilic fought back from losing the first set at the tie-break, but he bounced back in the second set by breaking serve in the ninth game, when Bautista Agut made a forehand error. Cilic held on his serve to win the second set 6-4 to draw level to 1-1.

Cilic cruised through to a bagel win in the third set. The Croatian player got an early break in the fourth set to open up a 3-1 lead. Bautista Agut broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Cilic did not convert a break point chance at 5-5. Bautista Agut earned the break at 6-5 to force the match to the fifth set.

Cilic broke serve in the opening game of the fifth set with a forehand winner, but he did not convert a break point at 4-2. He broke for the seventh time in the match in Bautista Agut’s next service game to clinch a thrilling win, as Bautista Agut fired a backhand into the net.

Cilic took a re-match against the Spanish player, who won their previous head-to-head clash at the 2019 Australian Open in five sets.

“I had an incredible patch. It was a surreal level. Every ball I was hitting was going in. It was coming off my raquet incredibly well. I knew Roberto would always fight and he pushed me all the way in the fourth set”, said Cilic.

 

 

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Karen Khachanov edges Mikael Ymer in marathon match in Melbourne

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Karen Khachanov battled past Mikael Ymer 6-2 2-6 6-4 3-6 7-6 (10-8) in a marathon match after 4 hours and 14 minutes.

 

Ymer broke serve twice in the second and fourth games of the fourth set to open up a 4-1 lead. Khachanov broke back in the seventh game, but Ymer broke for the third time to take the fourth set 6-3.

Khachanov broke serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2, but he was broken back in the next game.

Khachanov was not able to serve out the match at 5-3 in the fifth set before trailing 6-8 in the decisive match tie-break. Khachanov came back by winning four consecutive points to clinch a thrilling win.

Australia’s Alexei Popyrin beat Spain’s Jaume Munar 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 after 2 hours and 4 minutes setting up a third round match against Danil Medvedev. Popyrin broke twice in each of the first and third sets and saved all four break point chances.

Taylor Fritz came back from two sets down to beat Kevin Anderson 4-6 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-2. Anderson was leading by two sets and 4-2 in the third set, but Fritz broke back before winning the third set at the tie-break. Fritz cruised through the fourth and fifth sets. Fritz will face Dominic Thiem in the third round.

“That was huge for me. He played a really tough five setter just the other day and then obviously coming back. Going back to back five setters is going to be tougher for him than usual. I felt fresh, so I just told myself that I have to keep running”,said Fritz.

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