Top Indian doubles player Rohan Bopanna, who with Canadian partner Daniel Nestor was seeded third at the ATP500 China Open, lost in straight sets to the unseeded combine of Rafael Nadal and Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets, with the Spanish doubles pair winning 7-6, 6-4.
The match was by no means a one-sided affair, with both teams putting up a spirited contest. The first set saw no breaks of serve and some good volleys from both teams, with Carreno Busta, who is a top-40 player in the singles and top-30 in the doubles, taking on a starring role in the match.
25-year-old Carreno Busta played a strong game today, with excellent shot placement and some well-angled winners that went past his experienced rivals.
Bopanna and Nadal are among the oldest players on the tour – with Grand Slam winner Nestor active since 1991, but that did not in any way limit the pair’s athleticism. Both sped across court to reach well-placed shots from their Spanish rivals, with Bopanna at one point completing an almost Gael Monfils-esque slide to reach a shot off Carreno Busta.
Both pairs were speedy on their serves, with Nestor managing a 176km/h serve in the first set. They also showed their experience with some quick-reflex shots, with both Bopanna and Carreno Busta managing to bisect the rival team for points.
Rallies were not particularly long in this match, which also saw a few glaring mishits from both sides, with what should have been a simple return for World No. 14 Nestor going spinning into the base of the net.
Staggeringly, there were a total of ten opportunities to break in the first set – 6 for Bopanna and Nestor, and 4 for Nadal and Carreno Busta – but not a single break of serve in that set.
The Indo-Canadian pair were first to break in the second set, but were quickly broken back by their rivals, while they looked to have dropped the momentum slightly in the second. Communication may have been an affecting factor, with Carreno Busta and Nadal seeming a bit more coordinated than Nestor and Bopanna, who at one point during the set almost collided with one another.
Spectators were treated to some spectacular backhand – and forehand volleys off the racquet of Nadal, who did not look particularly taxed during the match today. Leading 5-4 in the second set, Nadal and Carreno Busta looked to close out the match with a hold to love, but a late fight from Bopanna and Nestor delayed that somewhat, with their 25-year-old Spanish rival netting an easy shot.
In the end, it was a quick finish for the unseeded Spanish pair.
Nadal, who is the second seed behind Andy Murray in the men’s singles at the China Open, will face Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi in his first round match tomorrow; should he go through to the quarter-finals, Nadal could stand to meet 22-year-old French ace Lucas Pouille, who ousted him in the Round of 16 at the US Open, with Pouille managing his best ever Grand Slam finish – at the quarter-finals, losing to compatriot Gael Monfils.
The Spanish former World No. 1 is currently at 8th in the Road to the ATP World Tour Finals – with the top eight players qualifying for the year-ending tournament. The Spaniard will look to consolidate his place in the standings, given the relatively small gaps between him, Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic, who are all active in tournaments this week. Berdych, who recently returned to play following surgery for appendicitis which caused him to sit out the US Open, beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet for the singles trophy at the ATP250 Shenzhen Open. He is currently only 330 points behind Nadal.
Cilic, meanwhile, is currently playing at the Rakuten Japan Tennis Open in Tokyo, where he is seeded fourth and earlier today beat France’s Benoit Paire 6-0, 4-6, 6-3. While Berdych trails Nadal by 330 in 9th, Cilic, in 10th, trails Nadal by 800 – deficits that could be made up with wins here.
Nadal will now play Paolo Lorenzi of Italy in his singles opener.