Nadal Avenges Defeat, Coric Edges Kyrgios

Third seed wins first ATP World Tour match since May

Rafael Nadal won his first ATP World Tour match since May, dismissing Pablo Cuevas in the second round of the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday. His 6-1, 7-6(4) win avenged a defeat to the Uruguayan in February to improve the Spaniard’s FedEx ATP Head2Head record between the pair to 3-1.

The 2013 champion had arrived in Cincinnati with hard-court matches under his belt, having claimed the Olympic doubles gold medal with Marc Lopez in Rio de Janeiro before falling in the bronze medal play-off to Kei Nishikori in the singles.

“I think I played well,” Nadal said. “I think I played a good match against a tough opponent in the first round for me for sure.

“After coming from Rio and after the marathon that I had, it's a very important victory for me. So I’m very happy.”

Cuevas won the pair’s semi-final clash on clay in Rio de Janeiro en route to the title earlier in the season but this would mark their first meeting on hard courts. It was Nadal who made the quicker start of the two, breaking twice to race through the opening set in just 26 minutes.

Cuevas mounted more of a challenge in the second where he held break points in three of Nadal’s service games, including a set point at 5-4. Nadal held strong to force the tie-break and sealed the result on his first match point to set up a third-round meeting with Borna Coric, who downed fellow #NextGen player and No. 14 seed Nick Kyrgios.

The Spaniard later acknowledged the stabilising influence his support team had had through his many ups and downs. “Well, I always had a team spirit,” he said. 

“I always enjoyed playing more for a team than just myself. Even the same when I was a kid playing football.

“So always with my team I always had a great relationship. When we are on court it's normal you have the feeling with them.”

Coric showed impressive resolve in beating Kyrgios 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-6(6). The Croatian teen was broken while serving for the match at 5-3 in the deciding set, then saved match point at 6-5 in the tie-break before beating Kyrgios for the first time in two FedEx Head2Head meetings. Coric struck 16 aces and saved five break points in the two-hour, 32-minute win. He upset Nadal in Basel in 2014, but the Spaniard got his revenge at the US Open the following year.

“It was a very good match. I’m extremely happy with my performance. I was lucky at times and unlucky at other times, but overall I was brave on the big points,” Coric said. “I will have this pressure to perform for the next 10 years or more, but I don’t have any problems with it. I see it as a challenge.”