ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Rafael Nadal counts to 50 and breaks Open era record

In Madrid 2018, the five-time champion Rafael Nadal scored the 18th victory from 19 matches that year, beating Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 44 minutes for a place in the quarters. It was Nadal’s 14th victory in a row on clay that season, sealing the deal in straight sets to secure a massive Open era record. Namely, Rafa became the first player with 50 consecutive sets won on a single surface, passing John McEnroe’s feat, who grabbed 49 on carper in 1984! The home favorite lost serve once and still had to work hard to dismiss the Argentine, who fought for every point from start to finish. Diego served at 55% and got broken three times from seven chances offered to Rafa, who did enough to seal the deal in straight sets and advance into the last eight. Rafa didn’t play at his best, spraying too many forehand mistakes and finishing the encounter with 14 winners and 21 unforced errors. Schwartzman landed 16 winners and 35 mistakes, unable to stay aggressive without sending too many balls to the undesired territory.

The Argentine stayed in touch with the world’s leading player in the most extended exchanges, and Rafa had the upper hand in the shortest and mid-range rallies to take 13 points more than his opponent. Diego avoided an early setback after fending off two break chances in the encounter’s second game.

Rafael Nadal won the 50th consecutive set on clay against Schwartzman in Madrid 2018.

Rafa repelled a break point with a powerful serve in the third game and grabbed a break at 3-2 when the Argentine netted a routine backhand. Nadal never looked back in his service games after that challenging one at 1-1, dropping only three points behind the initial shot in the rest of the set and clinching it 6-3 with a service winner in game nine.

That didn’t change in the early stages of the second set, as Rafa produced one good hold after another and took 27 of the last 33 points in his games! Diego couldn’t follow that pace, getting broken at 2-2 when Rafa placed a forehand down the line winner that sent him closer to the finish line. Instead of marching towards the finish line from there, Nadal suddenly started to make more errors, losing serve in game eight on Diego’s third break chance to trouble his fans a bit. Schwartzman squandered two game points at 4-4 that could send him 5-4 in front, and Nadal broke him after a costly double fault. The Spaniard made no mistakes this time and closed the encounter with a comfortable hold a few minutes later that pushed him into the quarters and towards an incredible record.

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