Nadal Overcomes Auger-Aliassime In Madrid
“It's a day to be very satisfied, very happy. I managed to win. I managed to win in two sets [against] an opponent, who was not easy, and the day was not the best. It was windy and cold,” Nadal said. “Of course there have been positive things. I think that my backhand has been really [going] well and other things. There are many things to improve, of course.”
The second-seeded Spaniard relied on his defence for much of the second-round encounter, absorbing Auger-Aliassime's aggressive tactics in the opener. But the #NextGenATP Canadian lost his way midway through the first set, tossing in a loose service game at 3-4 that included five forehand unforced errors to hand Nadal the break and an opportunity to serve out the set. Auger-Aliassime finished with 30 unforced errors, including 16 from his forehand.
The 18-year-old recovered midway through the second set, but Nadal was gaining confidence and, in addition to his early break in the second, he added two more before advancing in straight sets despite blustery conditions. The Spaniard won 76 per cent of his service points (34/45).
“The important thing is to win, especially given what's happened in the last three days,” said Nadal, who had a stomach virus on Sunday.
“The first seven games I didn't have a lot of rhythm. Both him and I, we were struggling when returning the balls. We had a lot of first serves and returning was very difficult... I managed to do a break, and from there onwards, it's a turning point. I think I started to return a little bit better from thereon. And I did things better than him.”
The five-time champion is going for his first title of the season after falling in the semi-finals of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on clay earlier this year. He improved to 37-6 in Madrid since the tournament transitioned to clay in 2009.
Next up for Nadal at the ATP Masters 1000 event will be a rematch of his Australian Open quarter-final that he won against #NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe. The 21-year-old knocked out Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber, a six-time ATP Tour clay-court titlist, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“Frances is a very high-level opponent. He has a lot of speed. He's very aggressive. And he's an electric player. He serves very well. He moves very good on the clay,” Nadal said. “He comes in with a lot of confidence... He has that drive and energy, and it will be a good test for me and an opportunity for me to play a tough match and to keep improving.”
Did You Know?
Nadal is 20-2 against #NextGenATP players since the campaign launched at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.