Nadal Shakes Off Rusty Start To Advance In Miami

Spaniard celebrates his 822nd win on tour

Rafael Nadal recovered from one of the most lopsided starts of his career to advance past the streaky Philipp Kohlschreiber 0-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Sunday at the Miami Open presented by Itau. The 30-year-old Nadal, playing in his 1,000th career match, improved to 37-11 at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, one of only three Masters 1000 events Nadal has yet to win.

“One thousand matches is a lot of matches. Obviously that’s good news because that says I am having a long career. During a lot of years, I heard that I’m going to have a short career, so it's something important for me,” said Nadal. “I remember the first match very well because it was at home in Mallorca. It was my first victory on the ATP and was a great feeling.”

The comeback victory for Nadal, a four-time finalist in Miami, sets up a fourth-round clash against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, who beat Argentine Guido Pella 6-4, 6-3. Nadal and Mahut's FedEx ATP Head2Head series is tied at 1-1.

Nadal was the heavy favourite coming into his 15th meeting against Kohlschreiber. He led their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 13-1, and his only loss had come in 2012 on the grass in Halle.

But Kohlschreiber came out swinging, especially teeing off on the Spaniard's serve. The German stabbed at a forehand winner to break in the opening game, and it was a sign of things to come. Kohlschreiber would win 65 per cent of Nadal's service points (13/20) and break three times during the 25-minute opener.

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Nadal looked out of sorts in first set, mishitting balls and struggling to get Kohlschreiber's returns back in play. It looked as if the German were going to continue his Miami hot streak. The 33 year old had come back from a 2-5 double-break deficit in the third set to beat American Taylor Fritz in the second round.

But Nadal left the court after the first set and returned a different player. The Spaniard smashed a forehand down the line for a hold in the opening game and pumped his fist to celebrate getting on the board. The crowd reciprocated with a roar. At 3-2, after chants of “Let's go, Rafa!”, Nadal broke for the first time in the match and coasted through the second set.

Nadal would play nearly flawless tennis in the decider, dropping only one point on his serve (20/21). He clinched his 822nd win with a forehand down the line that Kohlschreiber couldn't handle.

“He was doing everything good, so that's sport, When somebody is playing the way that he was playing that first set, I lose the set because he was playing too good. That's it,” said Nadal. “But a match is long and the positive thing is I held the pressure well this afternoon after a very tough first set. I resisted well in the first few games of the second set and then I think I played a great second and third set.”

Kohlschreiber should walk away pleased with his opener. It had been more than two years since Nadal had lost any set 6-0, since his 2015 Australian Open quarter-final against Tomas Berdych, which Nadal eventually lost. The last time Nadal had been bagelled to start a match was in January 2008, when he fell in the Chennai title match 6-0, 6-1 to Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

1,000 MATCHES PLAYED CLUB

                                                           + No.                    W-L

1) Jimmy Connors                              1,535                    1,256-279

2) Roger Federer                                1,340                    1,094-246

3) Ivan Lendl                                       1,310                    1,068-242

4) Guillermo Vilas                               1,215                     929-286

5) Andre Agassi                                  1,144                     870-274

6) Ilie Nastase                                     1,085                     780-305

7) John McEnroe                                1,075                     877-198

8) Stefan Edberg                                1,071                      801-270

9) David Ferrer                                   1,034                      696-338

10) Brian Gottfried                               1,004                     680--324

11) Rafael Nadal                                 1,000                      822-178

+ Matches include ATP World Tour, Grand Slam, Davis Cup, WCT

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