Nadal Wins Battle Of Experience & Youth In Acapulco

Dimitrov saves two match points on Wednesday

Rafael Nadal made it clear on Wednesday that he wants a third title at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC. The top-seeded Spaniard put in a brilliant performance to hold off an inspired effort from #NextGenATP Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, advancing 6-2, 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals in Acapulco.

”He’s a very dangerous player. Young, with a lot of power. I’m very pleased with the victory,” Nadal said. "I played a very good first set and that’s important news for me. That gives me confidence.

"It's true that I missed the opportunity to win the match with my serve at 5-4 [in the second set], but except for that, I think I played a very good match. I improved a lot compared to yesterday's match. That is always positive. I am happy with the way I played and happy for the victory. I hope to be prepared for tomorrow.”

Nadal improved to 17-2 at this event and also kept alive his hopes at regaining the top spot in the FedEx ATP Rankings. If he takes the title in Acapulco, Novak Djokovic must reach at least the semi-finals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in order to remain World No. 1 on Monday.

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Before the crowd could settle in, Nadal had already raced to a 5-0 lead in the opening set. The Spaniard used perfectly placed first serves to set up his forehand and take control of the rallies. Even when Kecmanovic made the correct play, he was often reduced to a spectator as he watched the Spaniard rip winner after winner past him.

The Serbian refused to go away quietly, earning one of the breaks back with a brilliant forehand passing shot on the run. But when Kecmanovic served, Nadal’s powerful returns immediately put him on defence. The Serbian was unable to win a single point when he got his first serve in play (0/7), enabling Nadal to break to love and grab the early advantage.

Nadal produced the shot of the day with Kecmanovic serving at 3-4 in the second set, chasing down a smash from the Serbian and cracking a forehand winner to set up break point. The Spaniard broke Kecmanovic for a 5-3 lead, but the #NextGenATP star responded brilliantly by breaking back in the next game with a delicate drop volley winner.

Both players remained even until the final moments of the match, which saw Nadal raise his level once more and break Kecmanovic to advance after one hour and 36 minutes. He finished the day with 20 winners to 17 unforced errors.

Next up for Nadal is Soonwoo Kwon, who reached his fourth quarter-final of the month with a 7-6(2), 6-0 upset against eighth-seeded Serbian Dusan Lajovic. The South Korean also reached the last eight in Pune, New York and Delray Beach, but this is his first quarter-final at an ATP 500 event.

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Grigor Dimitrov leaped over a critical mental hurdle by saving two match points to survive Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-7(8), 6-2, 7-6(2) in an epic second-round match. Dimitrov had lost his past four final-set tie-breaks, but drew on memories of third-set tie-break victories in the semi-finals and final of his title run at this event in 2014. The Bulgarian improved to 6-4 this year and moved into his maiden quarter-final of 2020.

”All I had to do was to stay in the match and fight. I don’t know why I have to make it so hard, but it what it is,” Dimitrov said. “The atmosphere here was electric once again. I’m just going to appreciate this moment.”

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Dimitrov squandered a 4-2 lead in the opening set and held a set point at 8/7 in the first-set tie-break, which Mannarino erased with a forehand volley winner. The Frenchman grabbed the early advantage two points later with an overhead smash.

It appeared that Dimitrov had regained control after cruising through the second set and holding a 4-1 lead in the decider, but Mannarino responded with a four-game run of his own. He held a pair of match points with Dimitrov serving at 4-5, but the Bulgarian erased both with clean hitting.

The match fittingly moved into a final-set tie-break and Dimitrov saved his best tennis for when it mattered most, racing to a 4/0 lead and cracking a backhand winner on match point to end play after two hours and 45 minutes. He improved to 2-0 in his ATP Head2Head series with Mannarino.

Next up for Dimitrov is third seed Stan Wawrinka, who enjoyed a comfortable 6-4, 6-4 victory over against Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez. The Swiss won 90 per cent (26/29) of his first-serve points and broke Martinez twice in each set to advance in one hour and 31 minutes. He's reached at least the quarter-finals in all three events he's played this year.

Wawrinka leads Dimitrov 7-4 in their ATP Head2Head rivalry and has won their past five matches.

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