The king of the earth wants to become a teacher and will not stop until he succeeds. It does not matter the extreme quality of the rivals, nor the ups and downs in decisive moments. Rafael Nadal It’s bomb-proof and it proved it on Thursday night in London. The Spanish tennis player was measured against the current champion of the Masters Cup, Stefanos Tsitsipas, in a life or death match that won (6-4, 4-6, 6-2), like so many other times, based on epic, talent and a vital experience in these instances. The semifinals are already a reality for Rafa, who will face Medvedev on Saturday for a place in the very final of the ATP Masters tournament.
The match had all the incentives of a duel at the top, an all for all between the reigning champion and the eternal contender after 15 years of qualifications, frustrations and injuries that have separated him from the fight for the title. Nadal, in search of the semifinals against a rival He had dominated in six of seven games, but could not be trusted one iota, without margin before the precipice of elimination.
One of the attractions of the meeting was to recognize the real Rafa from the Masters Cup. While facing Rublev he showed his most offensive and aggressive face, with Thiem, although he achieved remarkable in his performance, he was more hesitant, especially in decisive moments. The serve was to be his ally in a match of maximums and Nadal did his part, maintaining the tie after four games with a very inspired Tsitsipas, especially with the right.
The Greek is a heterodox tennis player, with a bomber figure that hides a versatile profile that is not uncomfortable when defending. However, on an indoor hard court, his offensive tennis had to shine if he wanted to have options, and playing from the baseline Stefanos managed to keep a Nadal at bay, again remarkable but without the point of inspiration necessary to break the serve of his rival.
The most decisive Nadal
Rafa warned once at 3-3, where he had four break points frustrated by a huge Tsitsipas. The game, which increased in level with each exchange, was also disputed in Stefanos’ next service game, which this time, was going to feel the pressure with a key double fault to seal the break of Nadal, who with two consecutive aces definitively tied a first set in which he was brilliant and, above all, decisive.
Nadal’s deployment was of absolute merit, with a perfect tennis to compete with a rival in top form like Tsitsipas. The second set continued along the same lines, with Rafa monopolizing with his service and Stefanos pulling flashes to solve his without a break that could be definitive.
Thus advanced the scoreboard, with Rafa linking blank services and with a single lost point at the time of taking responsibility. Tsitsipas survived by alternating superb blows with failures that prevented him from equaling the points with the number two of the tournament. A small detail would decide the sleeve and although the moral advantage was Nadal, Stefanos was more successful at the right time.
Nadal lasts, and lasts, and lasts …
After displaying an excellent game on serve, practically unshakable, Nadal missed at the right moment and gave two break-and set-balls to Tstisipas. They were the first of the match for the Greek, and although the first was lifted with an excellent shot made in Rafa, the second, as happened to Stefanos in the opening set, the manacorense screwed up with a double fault that put the signature of his opponent, raising the game to a third set of epic tints.
The blow had been hard, very hard, after a set in which he touched perfection in sections and in which a minimum mistake had cost him the equalizer. But nevertheless, in great difficulties is where the greats show their true condition and Nadal, concentrating on the final objective and not on the stones of the road, he broke from the beginning to a Tsitsipas that was still thinking about the partial victory.
The break was an oasis, since Stefanos, with one more point in those moments, immediately matched the rest as well, carrying a confidence that was going to be extinguished again by Nadal, the firefighter of the circuit, with a second break, this time as a threat of the settlement of the meeting. The physical downturn joined the mental in Tsitsipas, who was beginning to lose his legs and ideas under the tennis gale, touching the two hours of exhausting exchanges that crowned to the winner, with a Spanish surname and universal legacy, already with a ticket in his pocket for the semifinals of the Masters.