Rafael Nadal beats qualifier Tim Smyczek in a five set epic to progress to the third round
Rafael Nadal beat American Tim Smyczek 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-5 to reach the third round in MElbourne.
Nadal got off to a splendid start in the first set by dictating points from back of the court with his trademark forehand crosscourt winners getting him most of the points. Smyczek was struggling to win consecutive points off Nadal’s serve and was eventually broken on his own serve twice. The American did not get a single break point opportunity off Nadal’s serve. The No. 3 seed came to the net a few times and hit crisp volleys to unsettle the qualifier. The opening set was done and dusted in 31 minutes.
The American broke Nadal ‘s serve in the first game of the second set only to be broken right back to level scores at 1-1. Both players looked comfortable on their serves until the sixth game before Smyczek converted the lone break point chance in the seventh game to lead 4-3. Smyczek showed no signs of nerves as he held his next service game comfortably. Nadal committed 14 unforced errors most of which came of his forehand. Smyczek was not content with a single break as he capitalised again in the ninth game when Nadal served two double faults to make it one-set all.
The third set began on a similar note as the second one with both players exchanging service breaks in the early goings. However, Nadal was the one to take the lead in the ninth game to lead 5-4. Former World No.1 could not serve out the set as Smyczek had answers to everything Nadal threw at him in the latter stages of the set. The third set went to a tiebreak. The American got the early minibreak in the breaker and consolidated it to lead two sets to one lead in front of a packed Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal wasn’t the one to give up despite not looking 100% as far as his physical game was concerned. He hung in there as errors started to increase from the American. Both players did not approach the net that often and decided to slug it out from the baseline. Smyczek struck 11 winners, but Nadal got the crucial break of serve in the eighth game to lead 5-3. He held serve to take the match to a decider.
Smyczek was in trouble in the first game of the decider when Nadal had a break point chance, but the American held on. Both players did not want to slip up and served well in the final set. It was Smyczek who struggled to get his first serves in when he needed them the most. Nadal capitalised in the 11th game when he finally got the first break of the set and served out the match.
The World No. 3 will face Dudi Sela in the third round on Friday.