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Mexican Open 2020: Rafael Nadal's probable path to the title at Acapulco

  • Can Rafael Nadal clinch his first title of the season at Acapulco?
ANALYST
Feature
Modified 25 Feb 2020, 12:37 IST

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

19-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal arrives in Acapulco as the No. 1 seed, hoping to conquer his first title of the season. The Spaniard ended 2019 on a successful note, sealing the year-end No. 1 ranking for the fifth time in his career. And leading Spain to victory in the finals at the Davis Cup at Madrid was like icing on the cake for the 12-time French Open champion.

However, the 33-year-old has not been able to carry his form into 2020 and has succumbed to three defeats already this year. Nadal lost in straight sets against David Goffin and Novak Djokovic at the ATP Cup and was ousted by a belligerent Dominic Thiem in the Australian Open quarterfinals.

2020 Australian Open - Nadal lost to Thiem in the quarter-final
2020 Australian Open - Nadal lost to Thiem in the quarter-final

The World No. 2 has appeared a little circumspect so far this year, and would dearly hope to hit the ground running and regain his best form at the Mexican Open. Being the No. 1 seed at Acapulco, Nadal is placed in the top half of the draw and is accompanied by the likes of Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov and Dusan Lajovic.

Pablo Andujar, Alex de Minaur, Frances Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka are some of the other interesting names that will feature in this section of the draw.

Defending champion Nick Kyrgios, seeded 6th this year, and last year's finalist Alexander Zverev, seeded 2nd, are part of the bottom half of the draw. That section also includes 5th seed John Isner and this year’s Rotterdam Open and Open 13 runner-up, the 7th seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime.

As far as Nadal is concerned, his path towards the title at Acapulco is far from easy this year. He would need to come through stern tests against tricky opponents all week long if he fancies recording his 3rd title triumph at the Mexican Open.

Let us have a closer look at Nadal’s probable path to the trophy at Acapulco this year.

The two-time Mexican Open champion faces a tricky opponent upfront as he would be up against his fellow Spaniard, Pablo Andujar in the opening round. While Andujar might not be in the best of form this year, he can certainly pose some questions to Nadal, especially if he manages to play the way he did in their 3-set thriller at Rio in 2014.

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Nadal leads Andujar 3-0 in the head-to-head, but all their meetings in the past have been on clay. It would be interesting to see how Andujar fares against the Spaniard on the hard courts at Acapulco.

Nonetheless, one can expect Nadal to cruise through this opening round fixture without too much stress.

In the second round, the Spaniard might come across the young and exuberant Alex de Minaur. The 21-year old Australian gave Nadal a mighty scare in their semi-final at the ATP Cup earlier this year.

De Minaur is returning from an abdominal injury that forced him to sit out of the Australian Open, and it remains to be seen whether he is fully fit. Nadal leads De Minaur 3-0 in the head-to-head, but we could have an interesting match on our hands if the Aussie manages to recreate the same intensity that he put on display in the ATP Cup.

Either No. 8 seed Dusan Lajovic or American Reilly Opelka, who won the Delray Beach Open on Sunday, is likely to be Nadal’s potential opponent in the quarter-final at Acapulco. While Nadal leads Lajovic 2-0 on the tour so far, he is yet face the 22-year-old Opelka.

Also check out: the full Mexican Open Tennis 2020 Results

Against either of these opponents, Nadal should start as the favorite.

The Spaniard might face a familiar foe in either Stan Wawrinka or Grigor Dimitrov in the semis. Wawrinka is a three-time Grand Slam champion himself and was a quarterfinalist at this year’s Australian Open. On his day, the Swiss can be simply unstoppable.

If Wawrinka puts on a show, displaying his ‘A’ game, it might make for a blockbuster semifinal. Nadal and Wawrinka last faced each other at the Paris Masters in 2019 where Nadal got better of the 34-year-old Swiss in straight sets. The Spaniard has also dominated Wawrinka 19-3 so far on the tour, and one can expect the story to unfold in a similar way this time around as well.

With last year’s finalists Kyrgios and Zverev placed in the same half of the draw, Nadal might face either the dramatic Australian or the in-form German in the title clash at Acapulco. 

Nadal and Kyrgios might face each other in the final
Nadal and Kyrgios might face each other in the final

When Nadal and Kyrgios met each other in the Round of 16 at Acapulco in 2019, it was a match to remember for all the wrong reasons. The latter sensationally upset the former after saving as many as three match points in the third set tie-break, but the contest wasn't played in the best spirit.

Nadal-Kyrgios clash is never short of drama or action and one thing is for sure: if these two do indeed meet in the final at Sunday, there won’t be any mercy shown by either.

As far as Zverev is concerned, after his heroics at the Australian Open where he reached his first ever Grand Slam semi-final, the young German would consider himself a serious contender for the Acapulco title.

With a 15-2 win-loss record so far at the Mexican Open, Acapulco is has been a happy hunting ground for Nadal. He won the title in 2005 and 2013 and was a finalist in 2017 as well. However, the Spaniard won both of his titles when the tournament was held on clay, and it would be intriguing to see if he can record his first title on the hard courts of Acapulco at this year’s Mexican Open.

Published 24 Feb 2020, 13:42 IST
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