One Day After Milestone, Nadal Continues Charge For Paris Title
Rafael Nadal became the fourth player in the Open Era to reach 1,000 tour-level wins on Wednesday. On Thursday, it was back to business for the Spaniard at the Rolex Paris Masters.
Nadal continued his pursuit of a maiden Paris-Bercy title with a 6-1, 7-6(3) third-round victory against Aussie Jordan Thompson. The Spaniard has reached the quarter-finals in all eight of his appearances at this tournament.
"I think I played a good first set. A lot of good shots, good winners, serving well. And then in the second, [I] was not able to find a way to [get] the break," Nadal said. "He started to serve very well, I think, and I missed a couple of returns that I could do better, I should do better."
The World No. 2 saved a set point on his serve at 5-6 in the second set, winning a grueling 26-shot rally in which his final forehand, which elicited a backhand error from Thompson, clipped the baseline. Nadal surged through the ensuing tie-break to emerge victorious after one hour and 33 minutes.
"I think he increased a lot [his] level in the second set. He played well, so I give credit to him," Nadal said. "I only faced one break point with my serve during the whole match, but [it] was a set point, and a tough one. That's a positive thing with my serve. And on return I think I did it very well in the first and I could do it better in the second. I found a way.
"In the tie-break I saved a couple of break points. Second point of the tie-break had huge importance, too. [Reaching the] quarter-finals, that's the most important thing for me. I'm happy."
Should the top seed go on to triumph at the Rolex Paris Masters, he will tie Novak Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles. The lefty star could triumph at this level for the 15th time in the past 16 years.
This was Nadal’s first ATP Head2Head meeting against Thompson, but he wasted no time imposing his will on the match. The World No. 2 broke the Aussie’s serve early when Thompson missed a backhand volley, and Nadal later swooped into the net to carve a backhand drop volley, securing a second break and a commanding lead.
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Thompson did not get discouraged. He played on top of the baseline whenever possible and clawed back Nadal’s aggressive baseline blows to force the Spaniard to finish points. At times, the Aussie even threw in serve and volleys to make sure he wasn’t consistently being pushed around.
The World No. 61’s inability to blow Nadal away proved critical. On Thompson’s set point, he earned control of the rally, and was able to go after an inside-out forehand. But Nadal never panicked and slowly worked his way into control of the point, with Thompson eventually missing a defensive backhand into the net.
Nadal then took charge of the action in the tie-break, completing his win when Thompson missed a forehand into the net. The top seed will next play countryman Pablo Carreno Busta, against whom he has never lost in six previous ATP Head2Head meetings.
The ninth seed ousted qualifier Norbert Gombos 7-5, 6-2 in 80 minutes. Carreno Busta has been one of the hottest players since the ATP Tour restarted in August, reaching his second US Open semi-final and advancing to the Roland Garros quarter-finals.
"I need to be ready to play my best against an opponent that I know is playing well and with confidence," Nadal said. "I hope to be ready to play my game and really read well, because that's what I'm going to need."