The sun came out openly, without clouds to finally hide it this Thursday in the Spanish capital. He also did it for a Rafa Nadal delighted with the warmth under a blue skylike his new kit, which was presented at the Manolo Santana stadium, full of ‘beautiful people’, very happy, after his Real Madrid came back with epic against Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals. He also had to turn an adverse marker in the first set and shoot mystique later to raise four match points and get his second win in the 20th edition of the Mutua Madrid Openthis time much more suffered and with some questions, against David Goffin: 6-3, 5-7 and 7-6 (9) in 3h09 minutes.
“It is not to break any epic moment, but it has been an incredible ending that I should never have reached with 6-3 and 5-3 and the game controlled. Although I have not competed for a while and we have to accept things”, acknowledged after making an effort that allows him to play for the 99th time, a record number, the quarterfinals of a Masters 1,000. He will do it on Friday no earlier than 16:00, maybe against the birthday boy Carlos Alcaraz, as long as the Murcian, who this day celebrates his 19th anniversary, wins the British Cameron Norrie in the night shift. It would be the third episode of an instant Clásico, which the Balearic Islands dominate 2-0. “I needed game rhythm, but not so much to be able to face the game tomorrow with guarantees”explained the manacorí.
An AWESOME evening!
— #MMOPEN (@MutuaMadridOpen) May 5, 2022
Nadal’s winning streak, interrupted in the Indian Wells final against Taylor Fritz, in which he played injured, continues and goes for 22 wins. This was the fifth against Goffin, all on clay. The 31-year-old Belgian, in low hours as number 60 in the world (he was 7th in 2017), beat the Spanish twice, at the 2017 ATP Finals and at the 2020 ATP Cup. A few days ago he had a rebound with the title in Marrakech, but at Mutua he had to go through the preliminary and he is not the same as before, although his performance was more than worthy. Perhaps that is why he did not take advantage of the advantage he had in that first set, with an early break that he did not consolidate. A 4-0 run gave Rafa the lead.
The second set was more placid from the start for the winner of 21 Grand Slams. A break was scored for 2-1 and serve. He didn’t need to face a single break point against until the tenth game, when he made life difficult by serving to win after wasting a match-point (he had had another at 5-3 at return). The game got extremely tangled up for him, because a grown Goffin increased the power of his blows and the aggressiveness, he invested a lot to hit him with his right hand and it overwhelmed him in a fit of pride. Rafa had saved a bit of a set with an ostentatious celebration (jump and saw, shouting Let’s go!), but the second did not lift it.
In the third quarter some clouds appeared. It started with break opportunities for Nadal. They did not materialize and he had to fight more than, surely, he expected. A couple of aces got him out of trouble at 3-3. Goffin missed a little more, but did not lose intensity in his attacks. The Spaniard clung to his legend and his story, which said that he had never lost a match in the Caja Magica after winning the first set (38-0 now). “Yes, you can,” sang the audience. He clenched his teeth and knew how to suffer, as almost always, to save the furniture in the decisive tiebreaker with some help from his rival and two left ‘a la Panenka’, like Benzema’s penalty at the Etihad a week ago.
Lights and shadows
In short, the service, which played tricks on him with some double faults at the beginning of the match, worked better later, with good speeds, but a bit forced at times. The backhand cross was executed again at a high level and the drive, hotter after the shooting of the debut, improved, though not enough to make Goffin come in less often with his. The rest, regular, the truth. Physically, without many problems, with fewer uploads to the network, but good lateral movements. The ‘preseason’ continues, although to beat Alcaraz, or Norrie, Nadal will have to raise the level quite a bit. In the distance and without commitment, a double objective: accumulate six titles in Madrid (he has the record with four on clay and one on hard court) to reach 37 Masters 1,000 and match Novak Djokovic’s record.
Results of the Mutua Madrid Open ATP