‘Rafael Nadal saved match point in Barcelona, Rome, and you ask how,’ says Wilander

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were the finalists at the Rome Open two weeks ago, restoring the order after a couple of early exits on clay this spring. Djokovic suffered an early loss in Monte Carlo before reaching the semi-final in Belgrade, finishing his journey in the last four following a titanic battle against Aslan Karatsev. Nadal lost in the quarter-final in Monte Carlo and Madrid to the young guns Andrey Rublev and Alexander Zverev, not playing at his best in Barcelona but securing the title. The Spaniard repeated that in Rome and gathered a boost ahead of Roland Garros, where he chases the 14th title in the past 17 years! Interestingly, Nadal had to save a match point in both Barcelona and Rome en route to the trophy, overcoming all the obstacles to lift trophies and remain the top favorite in Paris. Speaking about Nadal, Mats Wilander said that he used his mental strength and fighting spirit in those matches against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov, standing on the verge of defeat and still emerging victorious.

Competing in his 12th Barcelona Open final, Rafael Nadal toppled Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 after three hours and 37 minutes, saving a match point in the decider’s tenth game! Thus, Nadal remained undefeated in the title matches at one of his favorite ATP events where the central court carries his name, lifting the 87th ATP title and the first since October at Roland Garros. It was the longest best-of-three match of the season so far and the longest best-of-three ATP final in the last three decades, with two rivals pushing each other to the limits from start to finish. Nadal saved ten out of 12 break chances and produced four breaks to move over the top and score one of his most thrilling victories in the last couple of years.

Mats Wilander spoke about Rafael Nadal and match points he recently saved.

In Rome, the Spaniard took down Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 in the third round after saving two match points in the deciding set’s 12th game. Denis blasted over 40 winners and stayed in touch with the king of clay in the shortest and mid-range exchanges to come close to the finish line. Still, Nadal returned from a 6-3, 3-0, 40-30 deficit, kept his composure and stole the second set to prolong the action. The Canadian was a break in front in the final set before the Spaniard erased the deficit, wasting his opportunities on the return at 5-5 and playing against those two match points at 5-6. Rafa saved those and sealed the deal in the tie break to advance into the quarters, beating three more rivals to lift the tenth Rome Open trophy.

“There’s a chance that some of them will confront Nadal in the opening round and take the confidence away from him, especially if Rafa has to play a couple of challenging encounters in a row. I think that’s Nadal’s considerable strength; to play well in the opening matches and build confidence for the latter stages from the quarter-final. Rafa had to save a match point in both Barcelona and Rome. How he did that? Because he is Rafael Nadal! Still, the youngsters know they can beat him, and that can open the door for someone like Jannik Sinner. The chances are not big; they weren’t either when I won my first Roland Garros in 1982,” Mats Wilander said.

Leave a Reply