Nadal Applies The Pressure, Reaches Third Round
Former champion will next face fellow Spaniard Carreno Busta
Rafael Nadal applied the pressure right from the start on Thursday night and never let up against fellow left-hander Federico Delbonis at the Australian Open.
The World No. 1 created break points aplenty (going 3/20), but Delbonis didn’t cave in and, at times, the Argentine delighted spectators on Rod Laver Arena with his powerful play. Nadal, the 2009 champion and four-time runner-up, eventually won 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-1 over two hours and 30 minutes for a place in the third round.
"It was the first time playing during the evening here, and the conditions were cooler and slow," said Nadal, during an on-court interview. "It was a tough match, I lost an awful lot of opportunities on the break points, but I found a way to win. I think in the third set, I was more relaxed and play aggressively."
Nadal is off to a 6-2 start on the 2020 ATP Tour season, which includes helping Team Spain to the final of the inaugural ATP Cup, which was held across the three Australian cities of Brisbane, Perth and Sydney, where the Final Eight was contested.
He will now challenge fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, the No. 27 seed, who defeated German Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 in two hours and eight minutes.
The 33-year-old Nadal, who has captured 19 Grand Slam championship crowns, is bidding to become the first man in the Open Era (since April 1968) — and just the third man in the sport’s history — to win each of the four major titles twice. Only Australians Roy Emerson and Rod Laver have won each tournament on two or more occasions.
While Nadal was unable to convert six break points in Delbonis’ first service game, the Spaniard took a 3-1 lead en route to clinching the 49-minute set, which saw him strike 10 winners. Delbonis committed 21 unforced errors in the opener and saved two set points at 2-5.
It was the same story in the second set for Delbonis, who’d beaten Portugal’s Joao Sousa in the first round for his first Australian Open victory in four years. The Argentine recovered from 0/40 with five straight points in the first game, courtesy of powerful forehands, but Nadal, untroubled on serve, soon applied pressure back on his opponent’s shoulders.
Working his way into the match, Delbonis saved six further break points — in the fifth, seventh and 11th games — before Nadal’s consistency in the tie-break, which ended with an unreturned serve, gave the Spaniard a commanding lead. Through two sets, Nadal was 1/18 on break points.
“I am happy that I was able to serve all the first serves in the tie-break and play, I think, a good tie-break,” said Nadal. “I needed to win that second set. In the third, again, I played much better… I need to play better. Especially, I need to convert the break points.
“I have been practising every day a little bit better. Of course, in a match situation, it’s a little bit different. I am confident that I’m going to play better, because every day in the third set I have been able to show a good level of tennis. I need to do it before the next time.”
Nadal raced through the third set, breaking Delbonis to love for a 3-1 lead after the World No. 76 hit a drop shot into the net, and at 4-1 struck a deep return that Delbonis could not get back. Nadal quickly closed out to love to reach the Australian Open third round for the 14th time.
Nadal had dropped a total of 10 games against Delbonis in their three previous meetings at 2013 Vina del Mar (6-3, 6-2), 2015 Buenos Aires (6-1, 6-1) and at the 2016 Rio Olympics (6-2, 6-1). Delbonis, competing at his 24th Grand Slam championship, is now 0-3 lifetime against World No. 1s.