The one that smells of fear, the one that the red-haired Andrey Rublev hesitates, hesitates and shrinks, earth swallow me! Rafael Nadal He does not have the slightest doubt and draws, shoots and shoots his first opponent in the Masters Cup: 6-3 and 6-4, in 1h 17m. Asked to ask, the Mallorcan would have signed such a start with his eyes closed. Everything works, everything works out. And opposite, in addition, he has run into a rookie whose seams skip in less than half an hour of the game, overwhelmed by land, sea and air. Rublev’s subconscious insists: Earth, swallow me! He imposes the stage, despite the aridity of the stands, and he is even more overwhelmed by Nadal, the idol with which he portrayed himself as a child.
The Balearic is clear: not a step back. Having learned the recent lesson of Paris-Bercy, where he lacked tusk, Nadal applies the slate to the letter since the judge, Mohamed Lahyani, orders the start of the duel. Don’t speculate, don’t wait, don’t doubt. He attacks in a whirlwind and suddenly Rublev, a tennis player who plays like the angels and has won more trophies than anyone this season – yes, with an asterisk because none of the five awards he has added exceed the category of a 500 -, feels that he is A train is upon him, that the London track is immense and that the net is a foot above normal, so it is melting and dwindling while Nadal comes with everything, thumbs down since he peeks out of the locker room entrance.
The champion of 20 majors closes the first set in just 36 minutes, losing only five service points. Percentages skyrocket to 80% and 83% with first and second serves, respectively. Rublev suffers and his coach, Fernando Vicente from Castellón, suffers with him. What the hell is going on? Why doesn’t my player, the one with the most wins (40) this year, even smell the ball or put Nadal in a single jam? Perhaps, the good guy from the Muscovite has seen before jumping onto the track how the one from Manacor warmed up two hours before, give him that on the treadmill, as if he were a Miura about to head down the Cuesta de Santo Domingo.
The Russian sees everything completely black. When Nadal takes the first break, in the sixth game, the boy (23 years old, eight in the world) crashes the racket against the pavement and loses himself in a labyrinth of negativity that results in constant kicks in the air, fuss and decompression In all rules. If at any time he threatens with the intention of returning to the pulse, his rival responds with a slam of the door and cuts off the possibility of re-engagement. Rublev feels ridiculous at times.
The second set was born with another break and the continuation became an excellent shoot for Nadal, who demanded an improvement with the service and he achieves it, he does get it. Carbure also the reverse, the other owes Bercy, and imposes that the action pass without any kind of rhythm, because this time he is interested in everything being resolved quickly and Rublev cannot activate his drive from the bottom. This is not the earth, so the chameleon changes its costume. Proposal of minimal and determined, prickly, which requires the combination of fast and indoor. Lover of reinvention, the Spaniard resolves his coming out of the tournament with note, without giving up a single break option, and achieves a victory that allows him to lead the group.
His technicians, Carlos Moyà and Francis Roig, his physical trainer, Rafael Maymò, and also his wife Mery, sit from the seats. In the end, Rublev leaves crestfallen and demonized, with nothing good to put in his mouth, and Nadal already focuses on Tuesday’s duel against Dominic Thiem, who has previously beaten limping, touched on one knee, to the defending champion, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas: 7-6 (5), 4-6 and 6-3 (in 2h 18m).
“IT HAS COME OUT WHAT WE HAD PREPARED”
Before returning to the hotel where the players are staying, just 200 meters from the O2 Arena, Nadal attended to the journalists and corroborated the general interpretation: there was a plan, it was executed to the letter and it worked out wonderfully.
“Perfect? It was not a perfect match. Rublev has made more mistakes than usual, and I think I served very well. As far as possible, I have played a more or less intelligent game and it is to be very happy because it was a difficult opponent. Tactically I played well and thanks to the serve I was able to be more relaxed in the remains, which is what we had prepared ”.
“I have tried not to enter the fight from the back of the track, that there was not much rhythm,” he continued, “because I thought it was going well for me. It has worked and I am happy, I trust that this victory will help me. After a victory you feel better, with more confidence, and now comes a difficult game ”.
On whether he will maintain the same game pattern, he clarified: “Today we had an idea and the result has helped me to develop it; later, one has to adapt to how things are happening ”. And he closed: “What will I have to do against Thiem? What they leave me … and what we try to propose. In any case, I will have to be at my highest level, “he said in reference to the duel with the Austrian.