Rafael Nadal battled to a 5-7 7-5 7-6(6) 7-6(3) win over inspired opponent Karen Khachanov to book his place in the last 16 at US Open 2018.
The Spaniard, who had never previously lost a set to the Russian in four previous meetings, faced a much tougher proposition this time during an epic encounter that lasted four hours and 22 minutes.
“I’m very happy to escape a tough situation against a great opponent,” Nadal said in his on-court interview. “I have some things to work on for the next round, but the good thing is that I have a chance to improve.”
Khachanov played superbly in the first set. He broke Nadal’s serve in the third game when the Spaniard missed a forehand.
The World No.1 then hit back to level the score in game eight, but the Russian was undeterred. He punished a weak volley from Nadal with a good pass to break again for a 6-5 lead.
Khachanov kept his composure when the Spaniard saved three set points and eventually clinched the first set with ace down the tee. He fired down eight aces and 23 winners during it.
Nadal fights back
For a time, it looked like the Russian would take a two-sets-to-love lead. The second set followed the same pattern as the opener for eight games: Khachanov broke Nadal in the third game and the World No.1 fought back to make it 4-4.
But everything was different after that. The Russian broke again, and then the Spaniard broke straight back and held his own serve to love to lead 6-5.
It was at this point that the pressure of sustaining such a high standard had an effect on Khachanov. He tried everything he could to hold serve, but Nadal eventually wore him down and he made an error to make it one set apiece.
Despite plenty of long rallies, the third set was a more routine affair as both players served well to hold six times and force a tie-break.
Nadal raced into a 6-3 lead in the breaker courtesy of two double faults from Khachanov and looked set to take it there and then.
However, the Spaniard made a couple of errors and the Russian produced a huge forehand to drag it back to 6-6.
The drama did not stop there. Khachanov saved another set point and then made a double-fault to give Nadal his fifth chance to go up two sets to one.
What followed was extraordinary. Both players gave everything they had to an engrossing 39-shot rally that ended when the Spaniard hit a deep, wide forehand into the corner that the Russian could only deflect away from the court.
Khachanov makes Nadal work hard for the win
Khachanov looked tired at the beginning of the fourth set and dropped his serve in the third game. However, he recovered to keep Nadal’s advantage to one break, and that proved crucial.
When he was serving for the match, the Spaniard’s level dipped significantly and he suddenly found himself facing three break points. Khachanov only needed one: he brought Nadal to the net with a low backhand and then passed him with a precise forehand to level the score.
The Russian held onto his serve and then had one chance to break the World No.1 in the next game. However, Nadal snuffed it out to take the set to a tie-break.
The Spaniard controlled it throughout and powered his way to a 6-1 lead. Khachanov won the next two points but Nadal made no mistake to finish it 7-3.
Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup
Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar. Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup. Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first.
Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time. And each match on Sunday is worth three points.
Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm
Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles. So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday. Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday. Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist. If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.
Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)
Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles. While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever. Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.
Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay. It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1). And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday. Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary
Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games. He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts. However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.
Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary
Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday. If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.
The full Laver Cup schedule is here.
Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday
In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2. And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit. With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup?
Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day. Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm. And each match on Saturday is worth two points.
Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm
These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions. Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event. Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati. Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup. Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.
Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session
Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play. Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive. Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17. Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon. They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets. Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.
Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm
Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday? He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock. Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios. The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.
Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5. Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York. Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets. Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day. But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.
Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session
Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here. This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals. Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2. De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.
The full Laver Cup schedule is here.
Frances Tiafoe And Jack Sock Ready To Rain On Federer’s Parade At Laver Cup
Frances Tiafoe describes his first match at this year’s Laver Cup as ‘iconic’ but he is determined to seal victory with doubles partner Jack Sock.
Tiafoe, who reached the semi-finals of the US Open earlier this month, will feature in what will be the final match of Roger Federer’s illustrious career. The Swiss maestro has announced that the team competition will be the last event he will play before retiring from the sport at the age of 41. Federer will partner up with long-time rival Rafael Nadal in what promises to be an emotional encounter for all involved on Friday evening.
“It’s going to be iconic to be part of that,” Tiafoe told reporters in London. “Both guys are absolute legends, and obviously Roger’s last dance. We are definitely just out there trying to get a win.”
Looking at the wider picture, Tiafoe knows a win in the doubles could prove vital in team World’s bid to win the Laver Cup for the first time in history. Whilst on paper his achievements are overshadowed by those he faces, his current form gives him the edge. Federer hasn’t played a match since Wimbledon last year due to a knee injury. Furthermore, Nadal is still trying to get back to his best shape following an abdominal injury and was beaten by Tiafoe at the US Open.
“This is a special night. I just think me and Jack are just looking for a special night, come out there, have fun,” he continued. “The crowd is obviously going to be for them. You understand that kind of moment, and just go out there and do your part and just try to get a win. It’s going to be a special night tomorrow. I’m just happy I get the opportunity to do it with Jack.”
Sock, who has won three Grand Slam titles during his career, echoes Tiafoe’s desire to seal victory over the two tennis giants.
“I’m just stoked to be a part of it with my guy Foe (Tiafoe),” he said.
“We will go out and enjoy the moment, but not going to hold anything back. Sorry, Roger. Don’t want to spoil the night.”
Federer’s final match at The O2 Arena in London is set to take place in front of a sellout crowd. Following his retirement announcement, ticket sales for the three-day event have exploded. Ace Odds have reported a 4020% rise in demand for tickets with prices starting from £900. An extraordinary outcome considering the most expensive ticket for the Laver Cup was originally £510.
The doubles match involving Federer, Nadal, Tiafoe and Sock is estimated to start around 20:20 BST on Friday.
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