Nadal Survives Three-Setter To Top Nishikori
Rafael Nadal overcame a challenge from Kei Nishikori at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, winning 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 in two hours and 19 minutes on Thursday. The Spaniard heads into the quarter-finals of the ATP 500 where he’ll face unseeded Cameron Norrie.
The World No. 3 started by breaking the Japanese 31-year-old in the opening game to set the tone, blitzing through the first set in just 30 minutes. His pressure was relentless with Nishikori taking little risks, managing just three winners. The 11-time Barcelona champion entered the matchup with a dominant 11-2 record in their ATP Head2Head Series but hadn’t played against Nishikori in nearly two years.
“I think I played much better than yesterday; that’s a very important thing for me,” Nadal said on court. “The level of positive energy [was] higher, so [I’m] very satisfied.”
Nishikori finally got on the scoreboard for 1-1 in the second set. With that hurdle behind him, he started teeing off on his forehand and made it three games in a row for 3-1, taking full control of the momentum. A former World No. 4, Nishikori is a two-time winner in Barcelona (2014 and 2015).
He would earn a double-break and seal the set, marking the first time in history that Nadal has played a deciding set in back-to-back matches in Barcelona (he beat Ilya Ivashka 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday).
Out-defending Nadal wasn’t going to work so Nishikori moved more inside the court, taking charge instead of hanging too far back. He began changing direction better and pushed Nadal out of his comfort zone, making efficient use of his backhand down the line and closing with his forehand.
But Nadal would not be shaken up for too long and Nishikori couldn't convert on his opportunities. In the third set, Nadal survived a 0/40 first game scare by reeling off five points in a row. He’d save more break points (5/5 total in the set) and get rewarded for his clutch play with his own break for 3-1, followed by another at 5-2 to capture the win. The Spaniard improves to 63-4 in Barcelona.
Norrie had an unusual day in the office: He was leading 6-0, 3-5 against David Goffin before the Belgian retired with a right leg injury. The Brit has faced Nadal just once, losing in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open in straight sets.