ATP Madrid Masters: Rafael Nadal eases into third round
Round 2: Rafael Nadal def. Juan Monaco 6-1, 6-0
After a shaky start, Rafael Nadal steadied himself to assert his dominance over his good friend Juan Monaco, in his opening round at the Spanish capital.
In their sixth career meeting, Nadal bounced back from his defeat at Barcelona, and went through to the third round in straight sets.
Nadal started serving and wasn’t really sharp initially. He gave Monaco a break point opportunity, but clawed it back with a brilliant service return. After a couple of exchanges at deuce he held serve to open with a 1-0 lead.
Nadal pounced on Monaco’s first service game. He quickly reached two break points when he forced errors off Monaco’s racquet. Monaco saved both with confident serves, but this was an enthralling start. The world no.1 forced break point again by making Monaco move from side to side and cornering him. He broke when Monaco approached the net and mistimed his volley long.
The Spaniard was loose on his service game again, and this time Monaco took advantage of it. He converted when he reached break point as Nadal hit it long.
Failing to consolidate the break, Nadal applied pressure on Moncao’s serve again. The two players grinded it out from the baseline as they tried to control play. On reaching break point, Monaco made another unforced error, giving the advantage right back to Nadal.
Nadal finally consolidated the break. He was down 15-30, but confidently served out the game with some excellent court positioning.
A stunning forehand passing shot and a cross-court volley later, he stood at break point. Monaco held on, but Nadal was adamant on breaking Monaco again. He approached the net and smashed a winner and then broke Monaco again to take a commanding 5-1 lead.
His next service game was the best of the set. His approach to the net was perfect as he raced away to a 40-0 lead and eventually won the game when Monaco mishit into the net.
Nadal converted 3/7 break point opportunities in the set and had almost 70% of his fist serves in, despite the not so great start.
Nadal continued to dominate at the start of the second set. He gave Monaco no opportunity to gain control of the points as he stepped inside the court and attacked on both sides. He broke Monaco at love.
The breaks didn’t stop there. Nadal was growing in confidence with every game, and hitting more precise winners. The errors didn’t stop though, but Nadal was the more consistent of the two. He raced through the final few games to complete a 6-1 6-0 rout.
Nadal finished with 16 winners and 14 unforced errors, compared to Monaco’s 6 and 18 respectively. He did make some backhand cross-court winners as well, with one particular shot at 4-0, 15-0 on Monaco’s serve, the pick of the lot.
This match would do a lot of good for Nadal’s confidence, but he was cautious as ever.
“Each victory helps to raise your confidence,” Nadal said. “I started a little nervously in my movement. But I got better, and now I just have to prepare for tomorrow.”
Nadal advances to the third round, and will now face Finn, Jarkko Nieminen.